News / Asia

New Afghan War Commander Briefs NATO Officials

General David Petraeus, the newly appointed commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, has briefed alliance officials in Brussels on his plans for the war effort.  Petraeus met with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen Thursday, and addressed ambassadors of the North Atlantic Council, the alliance's top decision-making body.

He pledged progress in the war and reiterated the alliance's efforts to do everything possible to reduce civilian casualites.  The general also warned of tough fighting in the months to come. His visit comes just one day after the U.S. senate unanimously confirmed him as the new Afghan war commander.

Next, the general travels to Afghanistan, where he will take command of around 140,000 U.S and NATO soldiers who are at a critical junction in the Obama administration's counterinsurgency strategy to defeat the Taliban, rebuild the country and trust among the war-weary population.  

Based on the success he helped guide in Iraq in 2007, VOA Pentagon correspondent Al Pessin says General Petraeus is ideally suited for the delicate task of working with U.S. ambassador Karl Eikenberry, President Hamid Karzai and leaders of the more than 40 coalition partners in Afghanistan.

"General Petraeus is one of the most politically and diplomatically experienced officers in the U.S. military, much more so than General McChrystal, on a par more or less with Admiral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. So, he is very much aware that he has to deal with those issues. He's also aware of the fact that he is not the lead person on those issues.  That's more Ambassador [Karl] Eikenberry's ballywig [territory], " Pessin said. "But General Petraeus has to play a very delicate role of being a leader to some extent on those issues, but not being the number one on those issues."

The general is taking over amidst big expectations and a complex set of problems said
Christopher Snedden, Director of the Australia-based consultancy Asia Calling.

"It's much more tribal down south. There's not the insurgency problems up in the north because there are different groups up there, Uzbeks and Tajiks and various other people. But the Pashtuns down in the south, they are the ones that have to be placated. And to placate them is going to be very, very difficult." Snedden said. "And also, unlike Iraq perhaps, Pakistan and certainly those tribal areas in Pakistan are much more important in allowing groups like the Haqqani network to operate from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas [FATA] of Pakistan.  And while Iran did support elements within Iraq, it wasn't able to so to same extent I don't think as those people in FATA are able to do with the Taliban."

To be successful, General Petraeus must win the hearts of minds of the people, a process he warns could take years, according to  Amin Saikal, Director of Arab and Muslim Studies at Australia National University.  But Saikal points out the problem of winning over the population is made more difficult by what he calls the dysfunctional and corrupt Kabul government, which he says has created a political vacuum exploited by the Taliban.

Saikal suggests a government overhaul is needed to address those thorny issues.

"It would have to be changed into a parliamentary system of government, which would be more responsive to a country so socially divided as Afghanistan. And, of course, one must not forget that Afgahnistan in many ways historically has been the land of the 'strongman' and these actors will have to be locked into a national system of obligations and responsibilities. That can only be achieved through a parliamentary system of governance," said Saikal. "Not necessarily through a strong presidential system of governance as has been built up or put in place by President Karzai and his international supporters."

Amin Saikal also thinks it would be wise for General Petraeus to support a regional conference on Afghanistan's future that might include the five permanent U.N. Security Council members, along with Afghanistan's neighbors, as well as countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey.  

You May Like

Video Egyptian Journalists Call for Press Freedom

Despite release of al-Jazeera journalists and others, Egyptian Journalist Syndicate says some remain imprisoned More

Turkey Survey Indicates Traditional Distrusts, Shift to the West

Comprehensive public opinion survey also found a large majority of those interviewed distrust all countries other than country’s neighbor, Azerbaijan More

Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing

Highest court upholds sentence of Mumtaz Qadri convicted of 2011 killing a provincial governor for criticizing country’s controversial blasphemy law More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs