Wire: NATO Ministers Endorse McChrystal Approach in Afghanistan
Off the Wire:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that NATO defense ministers Friday endorsed the kind of broad counterinsurgency approach for Afghanistan that is the basis for the pending troop request by the NATO and the U.S. commander there, General Stanley McChrystal. The ministers, including U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, are meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia.
VOA News reported that NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says the defense ministers have a "general shared view" that the alliance must make Afghanistan strong enough to defend itself against militant forces. And he said the ministers also agree on the approach for accomplishing that.
"There is the support of this counterinsurgency strategy, which means that ministers agree that it does not solve the problems in Afghanistan just to hunt down and kill individual terrorists," Rasmussein said. "What we need is a much broader strategy which stabilizes the whole Afghan society."Last month, Gen. McChrystal, in a strategy review now 55 days old, asked President Barack Obama for up to 80,000 additional U.S. troops for the fight.
That has been the core of the debate in Washington, with President Barack Obama reviewing the counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan he announced in March. The review was prompted, in part, by a grim assessment from General McChrystal, who is here at the NATO meeting to provide a direct readout to the defense ministers. The general's secret assessment, leaked to the Washington Post (newspaper) several weeks ago, follows the president's basic approach, but says it could fail unless he gets more troops.
His specific request is still secret, but it is believed to involve tens of thousands more troops.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Secretary Gates would not be drawn publicly into the debate over whether the troop-intensive counterinsurgency strategy is best or whether a more limited commitment involving air strikes and Special Forces operations would be better. He called any conclusions on that issue "vastly premature," and said key presidential decisions are two or three weeks away.
But the secretary stressed that the United States has "no intention" of withdrawing from Afghanistan, and said even a U.S. troop reduction is "very unlikely."
"The question is do we have the strategy right in light of the situation we face? Does it need refinement in some way?" Gates noted. "And if it does need some adjustment in light of the events that have taken place over the last number of months, including the election and so on, and then what are the implications of that in terms of General McChrystal's resource request?"
(Report from newswire sources.)