U.S. commander says Afghan war winnable, but situation grim

Gen. Stanley McChrystal visits an Afghan National Police compound. He called for a change of strategy Monday.
Success in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan is achievable, even though the situation is serious, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said in a statement Monday.

The statement came as Gen. Stanley McChrystal submitted a long-awaited report on the state of the war. “The situation … demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort,” McChrystal said in the statement. The general’s review was passed on to Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, and to Gen. Egon Ramms, senior NATO commander. It will also be forwarded to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. President Obama has called Afghanistan a “war of necessity” and has placed a great emphasis on defeating the Taliban and al Qaeda militants operating there and in Pakistan. U.S., British and other international forces under the NATO umbrella in Afghanistan bolstered their presence this year to improve security for the recent presidential and provincial elections.

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Violence has been particularly fierce in the south, where U.S. Marines have targeted the militants, and in the east near the Pakistani border, where American soldiers have been operating. Senior U.S. military officials have said the assessment shows that the Taliban exert “considerable influence” over a third of the country. Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said recently that the situation in Afghanistan is “serious and deteriorating.” The United States now has about 62,000 U.S. troops on the ground, and NATO allies have another 35,000. The Pentagon is planning to add 6,000 troops by the end of the year. There have been indications that Obama soon could be asked to commit more American troops. Gates, however, has signaled he would like to gauge the impact of the additional 6,000 troops before considering whether to send more.