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The deadly gamble in Afghanistan

By ANNE FLAHERTY
August 16, 2010

Gen. David Petraeus (AP)

U.S. support for the 9-year Afghanistan war is slipping and the death toll is climbing.

As the fighting intensifies, the Pentagon and White House are hoping that political support for the war can hold at least through year’s end to give Army Gen. David Petraeus time to make headway.

Progress in Afghanistan only began this spring and needs time to take root, Petraeus said in comments broadcast Sunday that were aimed at shoring up American support for the war.

Petraeus, who’s been credited with a successful war strategy in Iraq and who took charge of U.S. and NATO military operations in Afghanistan in July, described an “up and down process” of seizing Taliban-controlled territory and creating “small pockets of progress” that he hoped will expand.

The goal, he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” is to keep al-Qaida and other extremist groups at bay while the Afghan government has a chance to take control and earn the trust of the local population.

“We’re here so that Afghanistan does not once again become a sanctuary for transnational extremists the way it was when al-Qaida planned the 9/11 attacks in the Kandahar area,” Petraeus said in an interview taped in Kabul, the Afghan capital.

Petraeus and other military leaders have warned of more combat casualties as additional troops are sent to the fight. July was already the deadliest month for U.S. forces, when 66 troops were killed.

Last fall, President Barack Obama authorized 100,000 troops in Afghanistan — triple the level from 2008. Obama’s Democratic supporters have reluctantly swung behind the plan, but lawmakers are beginning to question whether Afghanistan can be won. Petraeus is expected to give an updated assessment to Congress in December.

Petraeus said in the interview that the war only recently has been given the right “inputs,” or resources: more U.S. and Afghan troops to take over Taliban territory and more civilians to restore services to the population.

“There is understandable concern and, (in) some cases, frustration,” Petraeus said. “Therefore we have got to really put our shoulders to the wheel and show during the course of this year that progress can be achieved.”

Petraeus described Afghanistan as a tough and enduring fight that would require its “character and its size being scaled down over the years.”

If the U.S. loses, there would likely be a bloody civil war followed by a takeover by extremists. If the U.S. succeeds and Afghanistan stabilizes, the country could become the region’s new “Silk Road” with the potential to extract trillions of dollars worth of minerals, he said.

But the goal is not to turn Afghanistan into an industrialized democracy, he said. Even if the nation relies heavily on tribal councils for governance, the central government in Kabul could still run the nation effectively without influence from extremist groups such as al-Qaida.

Petraeus said arresting al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden remains a primary goal.

He also said the Taliban leadership had detached itself from much of the fighting, occasionally sending messages via cell phones, but is not as engaged in the war as before.

“We actually see discussions among (Taliban foot soldiers), chatter among them … wondering where their senior leaders are, and wondering why (Taliban leader) Mullah Omar hasn’t set foot back in Afghanistan or even been heard from now in months and months and months,” he said.

When asked about the rocky U.S. relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Petraeus denied there were serious problems and defended Karzai as a leader trying to curb corruption. Petraeus said he and Karzai usually talk once a day, sometimes more, and take walks in the garden behind Karzai’s house.

“We have the kind of relationship that, I believe, we can each be forthright with the other and that means occasionally, again, confronting issues that are difficult for either of us,” he said.

In a separate interview with The Washington Post, Petraeus made clear he was not looking to shake up the war strategy pursued by his predecessor, Gen. Stanley McChrystal. McChrystal was forced to resign after he and his aides were quoted in a Rolling Stone article as being dismissive of their civilian bosses.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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6 Responses to The deadly gamble in Afghanistan

  1. Howard Hirsch

    August 16, 2010 at 7:32 am

    This man is patently full of shit. We’re winning nothing in Afganistan. Nothing. We’re losing everything. When you’re in a hole, any damned fool knows you stop digging. The level of violence hasn’t changed at all in the last nine years. The Russians couldn’t do anything in twelve. Don’t our fearless leading look? Don’t they see what’s going on? How goddamned blind can they be?

    This general is selling Parkinsons as an alternative to cancer. Who does he think he’s kidding? His ass isn’t on the line. He men are the ones who are going to continue to get shot up. Obama, I’m sad to say, hasn’t the balls to simply say “STOP IT. NOW. ALL OF IT”.

    So what exactly ARE we still fighting for? Patreus says to keep the taliban from gaining a stronghold. So what does he have instead of a taliban stronghold? A daily killing field. That’s the choice Patreus wants to give us. One sick result or the other. Don’t people unstand this effort is a fools errand? This world has gone completely mad. 50% of the people in this country are on drugs and/or antidepressants. 1/2 of the marriages fail. Most of the businesses are in the crapper. The economy is dying. How the hell much more does it take to figure out something is seriously wrong and has to be fixed? How much more punishment is necessary before someone else goes postal and says “no more”? One needn’t be even a keen observer to sense everything is completely out of whack. HELLO OUT THERE!!! Anyone home?

    This patreus is a sell-out and a liar. While he’s taking lovely walks in the garden bonding with that crook that’s supposed to be running the government, Afganistan continues to be the heroine capital of the world WITH OUR FREAKING BLESSINGS and under the auspices of a corrupt government. Is anyone paying attention out there?

    Anyone out there believes Patreus can “win” anything out there, please call me. I have several select bridges to sell you. /rant.

  2. griff

    August 16, 2010 at 11:08 am

    I believe this is now the longest war in America’s brief history. Afghanistan has outlasted invaders for centuries, and they will outlast us as well.

    And remember who armed and supported them against the Russians some thirty years ago. Now we’re the imperial power hell-bent on conquering these people. How the tables have turned.

    What do we need more time for? Haven’t we been poster boys for terrorist recruitment long enough? This is comic-book stupid.

  3. Bogofree

    August 16, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    104 Democrats voted against war funding. Republicans (surprise) provided the necessary support this failed president needs for further adventurism and expansion in Afghanistan. Personally it provides a great enclave for the Taliban so we know where they are. And these are the folks that will pray at a mosque near Ground Zero? WTF are we thinking!

  4. woody188

    August 16, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Support for the war ended around 2006, back when Democrats promised to end the war and won the House because of those promises. 4 years later…

  5. woody188

    August 16, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Remember when they planned 9-11 in the Tora Bora area?

    Where’s the next place we need to conquer? Why, they must have planned 9-11 there too!

  6. Carl Nemo

    August 17, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    General Petraeus is a man on the make. Most of his career he’s been an aide to higher ranking officers; ie., a “gofer”. I thought I’d supply a link that pretty much sums up his leadership style or lack thereof. He excels at being “pitch man” for the Pentagon and White House policies rather than his skills at managing a theater of war. In other words when his bosses tell him to jump, he’s simply making sure he jumps high enough. If anyone foolishly gets us involved in a war with Iran it will be him along with the braindead characters that sit on the National Security Council who ar enothing but button men for Israel’s interests in the Middle East.

    The link shows what Admiral William Fallon thought of this man and his distaste for such in high command. Also a link to Admiral Fallon. Fallon is man who’s able to view the greater picture in managing “multiple” theaters of conflict and the hazards thereof. I’m sure Fallon was student of “Sun Tzu the Art of War”. The U.S. if grossly overextended at this time. We’re even steaming about the South China sea trying to make our presence known to the Chinese. We can’t prevail in Iraq or Afghanistan ergo we surely cannot prevail against the Chinese in any land conflict, leaving only nuclear options which are unacceptable except to immature intellects or those in high places that have ready access to a bunker with a ten year supply of food, first run movies and even unmentionable pleasures provided to sate their boredom until radiation levels drop to reasonable levels. Meanwhile the rest of us are reduced to shadows in green glass. I guess the upside is that these miscreants we call leaders will have no one left to tax. / : |

    http://2164th.blogspot.com/2007/01/admiral-william-j-fallon-usn-commander.html

    Link concerning Fallon’s excoriation of Petraeus and his management style.

    http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=39235

    Link for General Petraeus

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Petraeus

    “Some news reports have speculated that Petraeus may have interest in running for the presidency, especially after he visited a school known for hosting the presidential debates, New Hampshire’s Saint Anselm College.” …extract from Wiki

    My point is that with General Petraeus; a man who doesn’t question authority now in charge, we are ever closer to a preemptive attack on Iran first via Israel with us being expected to clean up the mess. Fallon was a roadblock to the Bush administration for such an attack. It will be an ugly world destablizing situation for which we are not up to the task. Iran’s terrain is surely not like Iraq’s with similarities to Afghanistan.

    I surely hope our leadership doesn’t do something stupid, but it seems they are headed that way.

    As a followup note: Israel has a nuclear stockpile of nominally 200 “thermonuclear” weapons”; ie., hydrogen fusion warheads although they do not admit to such along with the capability of delivery such on short notice. My point we’re talking the difference between half megaton yields vs. tens of a kilotons. Iran at best might have a crude uranium or plutonium bomb in the works. They’ve initiated no testing program so to go from enriched, bomb grade plutonium to a deliverable weapon via a missile takes a level of expertise and materiel that’s not demonstrated at this time unless the Chinese have sold them such technology. Now for them to produce simply a conventionally detonated truck bomb filled with radioactive material is another issue. Regardless, if any nuclear attack occurs in Israel on Iran’s behalf, rest assured Tehran will be reduced to “green glass”. The Israeli’s don’t need us to do their dirty work as usual.

    Carl Nemo **==