The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has welcomed President Obama's revised strategy and his decision to add 30,000 troops to the effort, even though the general was reported to have wanted at least 10,000 more. And he told a gathering of some of his troops Wednesday their main focus will be on transferring responsibility for security to the Afghan Army and Police.
In a statement issued just before the president's speech, General McChrystal said the long strategy review provided him with "a clear military mission and the resources to accomplish" it. Later, speaking to some of his troops in Afghanistan, the general said after the president's deployment decision and speech "things are different." "We have a level of commitment that we have not had before, and that will change everything," he said.
General McChrystal said the key objectives are to improve security and transfer responsibility to the Afghan forces "as rapidly as conditions allow." President Obama said the transition to Afghan control will begin by July of 2011.
To help accomplish that, General McChrystal noted that the training unit for Afghan forces is now a NATO command, rather than being just an American responsibility. "It is now a coalition effort, and it is our main effort. Developing the capability of Afghan national security forces is the most important thing we do in the future," he said.
The general said he has already started working more closely with Afghan forces, by integrating some of their commanders into his headquarters, along with other coalition partners. "We do it as a team now, where a few months ago we didn't do it along with our Afghan partners, now, every day, we are all together in the same venues and we pass information. The key is we fight the same war now," he said.
Still, even with the increased U.S. commitment, the expected increase in NATO forces and the new emphasis on developing Afghan forces, General McChrystal told his troops there is a long, difficult fight ahead. "There are going to be more long nights, more cold days, more memorial services, more frustrations, more questions, more answers to questions, but there are also going to be more Afghans with a chance, more Afghans with security, more Afghans with the ability to make the choice for their future, to build the country the way they want it," he said.
The general said international forces will need to lead the fight against the Taliban until Afghan forces are ready to take over. But he said the war will not be won by just killing insurgents. Rather, he said, it will be won when the Afghan people are convinced that the coalition and the Afghan government offer the best hope for their future.