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Terrorism & Security

US general heads to Afghanistan to develop new strategy

With Gen. Stanley McChrystal on his way to Kabul, CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus warned Thursday that the situation in Afghanistan is the worst since 2001.

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Still, General McChrystal, who was confirmed as the new US commander in Afghanistan by the Senate Wednesday, told The Wall Street Journal that it is unclear whether the forces available will be sufficient to carry out the surge.

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In the interview, Gen. McChrystal noted he's unsure whether the planned troop levels for the job he envisions will be adequate – despite the Obama administration's commitment to raise the U.S. presence to 68,000 by year's end, to go along with 35,000 allied forces. Iraq surge commanders had more than 170,000 U.S. forces.
"I know that I want it to be an effective traditional or classic counterinsurgency campaign by getting people down in among the population," the general said. "I know that's easier said than done with a limited-sized force."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has given his new commander 60 days to come up with a campaign plan. Gen. McChrystal has indicated it will closely resemble the strategy used in Iraq by Gen. David Petraeus, now his boss as head of all U.S. troops in the region. Gen. McChrystal said he will push soldiers farther out of their bases and among residents, to bring a sense of stability to the people and to better develop nationwide intelligence.

The BBC reports that in an interview on BBC Radio 4, McChrystal emphasized the importance of the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, as well as protecting Afghan civilians both from the Taliban and "from the unintended consequences of our operation." McChrystal said:

"When we are in position, one of the things we'll do is review all of our rules of engagement and all the instructions to our units, with the emphasis that we are fighting for the population."
"That involves protecting them both from the enemy and from unintended consequences of our operation, because we know that although an operation may be conducted for the right reason, if it has negative effects it can have a negative outcome for everyone."

McChrystal's comments come as Agence France-Presse reports that six Afghan civilians were killed Friday in two separate incidents involving NATO forces: a car accident and a battle with insurgents.

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