Enough U.S. help for Afghanistan?
Deployment of 3,200 marines will help, analysts say, but will not provide the kind of counterinsurgency now needed there.
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The US had employed a proper counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, but it began to falter after the 2005 announcement that NATO would take over the mission, argued David Barno, a retired Army three-star general, in an article last fall in the Army periodical Military Review.Skip to next paragraph
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"Unsurprisingly, this was widely viewed in the region as the first signal that the United States was 'moving for the exits,' thus reinforcing long-held doubts about the prospects of sustained American commitment," wrote Mr. Barno, who will testify Wednesday before the House panel. The US must revive a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, he said.
In a separate development that could shape the future of Afghanistan and NATO, Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq and the man credited with creating an effective counterinsurgency strategy there, is being considered for command of NATO later this year, The New York Times reported on its website Sunday.
Unwieldy command structure?
One crucial move is to refine the complex organizational structure for the NATO force, with its bifurcated commands and complex command-and-control relationships.
"If there is an overhaul needed, it is getting a unity of command," says Jim Phillips, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank here. "Unfortunately, the military effort is disjointed, with so many different NATO forces pursuing different strategies."
Secretary Gates, however, has already decided not to push for changes to the organizational structure of the mission, after members of the Joint Staff last year recommended no change. "They ... recommended that we leave it as it is, and that is my intent," Gates said Thursday.
A proper counterinsurgency would include more attention to political, economic, and other nonmilitary issues, some say. Abdullah Abdullah, a former minister of foreign affairs for Afghanistan, said at a Washington think tank on Friday that part of what Afghanistan needs is help strengthening trust between Afghans and their central and provincial governments.
"If the US doesn't make some extra efforts to enable the government ... to gain the trust of the people, this will weaken any military strategy," he said.
Education for all Afghans is the ultimate "prerequisite for strategic success," says Paul McHale, assistant secretary of Defense for homeland defense. Mr. McHale wore a different hat last year, taking leave from his Pentagon job and deploying as a reserve officer to help develop the Afghan National police. He says bolstering education initiatives, opening schools, and giving girls more opportunities to learn will help the country to turn the page.
The military fight will set the conditions for success, but it's not the only thing, says McHale. "Trigger-pulling will not win this war," he says.