News / Asia

Commander Cites Progress in Afghanistan, but Key Analyst Remains Skeptical

US troops in Afghanistan (file photo)
US troops in Afghanistan (file photo)
TEXT SIZE - +

The operational commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan says his forces made good progress last year, and are working through the winter to create a less hospitable environment for Taliban fighters when they return to the battlefield in the spring.  But a senior analyst of the war says 2010 was not as good as it could have been, and is calling for some changes in strategy.  

General David Rodriguez said the past year, with more international and Afghan forces and a better coordinated effort with civilian agencies, has brought expanded areas of security and improved the lives of ordinary Afghans.

He told a Pentagon news conference that during the current winter lull in fighting, when Taliban fighters blend in with the local population or flee to Pakistan, his forces are working to make it difficult for the insurgents to launch a spring offensive.

“Our immediate focus right now is to accelerate certain effects throughout the wintertime, a time that traditionally sees less violence, when the enemy refits, rearms, retrains, and prepares for the upcoming spring and summer operations. And while this is going on, we're conducing shaping operations to make the environment for the enemy much more inhospitable than it was last year,” he said.

General Rodriguez said the presence of more international and Afghan troops, and more Afghan civilian officials in previously Taliban-controlled areas, have helped make progress that he believes will be more durable than in the past.  He said the people are reporting on more Taliban bases and weapons caches, and his forces are effectively targeting insurgent leaders.  
But General Rodriguez also acknowledged there is much work to do, saying the Taliban “is not on the ropes” and will try to come back strong in the spring.  The general predicts the group will not directly confront international and Afghan forces, as it did last year, but rather will adopt a new strategy.

“Because of the different conditions there, they're going to come back with a different type of strategy, the enemy is, which I believe is going to be focused on the leadership much more than it ever has, the political leadership, the people who are supported the government, and the government leaders,” he said.

The general says the Taliban will also likely target former members of the group who have gone over to the government side.  He says the formal reintegration program now has about 1,000 participants, and the Afghan government system is in place to accept more.  

Indeed, much of the general’s assessment focused on troops, civilians and systems put in place for more progress this year.

But one longtime analyst of the Afghanistan war says that is a disappointing report for what was the ninth year of the conflict.  Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution published a paper Tuesday calling for strategy adjustments to make faster and more long-lasting advances in governance and the fight against corruption, and to inspire more help from Pakistan in closing insurgent safe havens on its side of the border.

“I don’t think 2010 was a disaster.  There were a lot of good things that happened in 2010.  But let’s not get too caught up in talking positively just for the sake of maintaining national morale,” O'Hanlon said.

O’Hanlon, whose Iraq war analysis helped turn the tide of American public opinion toward more patience at a key stage in 2007, is not particularly impressed with General Rodriguez’s claim of success toward establishing the groundwork for progress this year.

“I don’t really disagree and I’m not really on the opposite side of the debate from General Rodriguez.  I would consider myself an admirer and supporter of what he’s trying to do overall.  But I’m also a skeptic.  I’m struck by the fairly low standard that’s being held out here to claim success,” he said.

O’Hanlon is particularly concerned that violence should come down sharply in 2011, that normalcy should return to more areas and that the Afghan government should actually do a better job of delivering services - rather than just making preparations to do so.  If that doesn’t begin to happen within the next few months, he says the United States should consider a more significant strategy change -- including a faster U.S. troop withdrawal, a slower expansion of security zones and an accelerated transition to Afghan responsibility.

On the issue of Pakistani help, General Rodriguez said he would like to see Pakistani forces do more along the border to destroy Afghan insurgent safe havens.  But he said if they do not enter some key areas, such as North Waziristan, that would not be a “mission stopper” for his effort to defeat the Taliban inside Afghansitan.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid