Gen. Stanley McChrystal today welcomed President Obama's announcement that he would send more troops to Afghanistan.
The U.S. commander also told reporters that Afghan President Hamid Karzai supported the decision. "The president was very upbeat, very resolute this morning," he said.
In a confident but sometimes sobering address to his commanders around the country this morning, McChrystal said he believes that the war in Afghanistan is at a turning point.
Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, he said, "I don't think we're at the end, or the beginning of the end. We're at the end of the beginning." He asked for a moment of silence for the war's dead and injured.
He then gave his commanders a rousing pep-talk, saying the president's speech had given them a "new clarity of mission...providing their Afghan partners with the time, space and capability to defend their country."
"Success is defined by the people. In counter-insurgency, it's about what people think at the end of the day...there will be more long nights, more long days, more memorial services...but also more Afghans with a chance."
Speaking off-camera later to reporters, McChrystal said, "The challenges are significant. There's no way to get around that. Sometimes it looks almost insurmountable, but it isn't."
McChrystal indicated that while he supported the timeline he was keen to stress that it was far from absolute. "It's not an 18 months and everybody leaves. The president has expressed on numerous occasions a long-term strategic partnership with Afghanistan and that includes all manners of assistance. So the concept is as ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] capacity rises, the requirement for coalition military forces goes down."
Talking about the troop numbers he seemed happy with the 30,000 the president has agreed to. "I think it is sufficient…it's exactly what we need." However, he quietly chided NATO countries: "I'm hoping all the coalition partners will look and see what they can do to expand their capabilities."
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen issued a statement today in response to Obama's announcement suggesting that NATO members would meet these responsibilities: "As the U.S. increases its commitment, I am confident that the other allies, as well as our partners in the mission, will also make a substantial increase in their contribution."
As he has done in the past, McChrystal emphasized the importance of training up the Afghan forces. He says within 6-8 months, you won't see a coalition unit that's not partnered with Afghans. However, he said the timeline for training up Afghan forces hasn't changed.
"It will take at least four years by our computation" to get to the magic number of 240,000 Afghan National Army and 160,000 Afghan National Police.
Mchrystal hopes this surge in troops will enable the Afghan government to act and provide an infrastructure that will make it harder for the Taliban to operate. "If the Taliban melted away and left the people alone for 18 months or longer, in fact what would happen in my view is the capacity of the Afghan government through its security forces but also local governance and development would make it much more difficult for insurgents returning to contest that. The insurgent cannot afford to leave the battlefield while the government of Afghanistan expands its capability, expands its legitimacy, expands its control."