The commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps says Marines will not be deployed to Afghanistan, as he had wanted, and will continue to work in western Iraq instead. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.
General James Conway says in a meeting last week Defense Secretary Robert Gates rejected his proposal for the Marines to give the western Iraq mission to the Army and take on some of the security effort in Afghanistan.
"I think, after discussion with the secretary, with my colleagues on the joint staff, that there's a determination that right now the timing is not right to provide additional Marine forces to Afghanistan," he said.
General Conway says he believes the Afghanistan war, with its increased clashes with enemy forces, is more suited to the Marines' traditional training and role than western Iraq, which has gone from being one of the country's most violent areas to one of its calmest. He says the move would have meant having fewer Marines deployed, making it possible for the corps' units to resume training for other types of conflict and also to have more time at home.
General Conway said that in Iraq, the Marines proved their ability to fight an insurgency, an ability that would be useful in Afghanistan. He says, in keeping with the new U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine, that involves not only military power but also the ability to work with local people and convince them to support the government, as happened in western Iraq.
The American general who commands all NATO forces, Bantz Craddock, said this week that is exactly the kind of work his troops in Afghanistan have to do.
"We will continue, in a military sense, to provide security throughout the country," he said. "But they will continue to provide insurgents, I'm sure. What has to happen here is to drive a wedge between the extremist leadership and what I call the 'day soldiers,' [insurgents] those who sign up not because they are ideologues but because they need money. If this development creates job opportunities, economic advantage, it's our judgment that these day fighters will go away. The whole key here is not to kill the Taleban, but to make them irrelevant by providing options."
General Craddock also said his staff has developed a new way to measure NATO's effectiveness in Afghanistan. He says he found when he took over about a year ago that NATO was measuring its own accomplishments, but not what impact that was having on goals set by the alliance and the Afghan government.
"We have, to a great extent, tracked measures of performance," he said. "'How are we doing?' Well, we built this, there's been a hundred kilometers of road, there's been this many schools - all good things. But the question in my mind is what's the effect it's produced."
General Craddock says NATO has identified 63 factors it will use to determine progress in three main areas - the extension of Afghan government authority, the development of its security forces and the creation of a secure environment for economic development.