Monday, May 17, 2010

McChrystal - changing perceptions of Afghan people is key to success

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (left) shakes hands with General Stanley McChrystal, Commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, Picture: Mass Communication Specialist Chad J McNeeley

Changing the perceptions of the Afghan people about the coalition, their own government and the Taliban will be key to success in that nation, the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force and US forces in Afghanistan said last week.

American Army General Stanley McChrystal told reporters that achieving more progress in the counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan will be a slow, deliberate endeavour, because changing perceptions is challenging.

Efforts in the country will be directed toward "changing not only the dynamics of security, governance and development, but also the attitudes of a population long pressured by insurgents," he said.

The strategic priority in the country is the development of the Afghan National Security Forces, General McChrystal said:

"While both the army and police have demonstrated considerable growth, significant challenges remain. The bottom line is there's much more work ahead to mature Afghan security forces. But I'm pleased with the progress made thus far."

The operational centre in the country will be in southern Afghanistan, the General said. The area, including Kandahar and Helmand provinces, is the hub for the insurgents and an economic engine for the country as a whole:

"Ten months ago, we began a series of operations into Taliban-controlled parts of the central Helmand River valley, expanding the Afghan Government's influence in key areas," General McChrystal said. "There's been considerable progress in security and governance. But as is expected in counter-insurgency, progress is often slow and deliberate."

The operational fight will be centred in and around Kandahar City. The General said there will not be a 'D-Day' for the operations to begin in the city because it is a uniquely complex environment that requires as much governmental and political pressure as military involvement. He said:

"This effort is being led by the Afghans, and will focus on the complex political and governance aspects of Kandahar."

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