News / Asia

Commander Cites Progress in Afghanistan, but Key Analyst Remains Skeptical

US troops in Afghanistan (file photo)
US troops in Afghanistan (file photo)

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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing 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.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid