In many ways, that sentiment reveals a fundamental aspect of how Afghans feel about more troops: they will support them only if their presence will help. And in some cases Afghans say it is too late, the U.S. has permanently lost any good will it had in 2001.
McChrystal says the mission is in urgent need of help but not lost, and he admits that the mixed support the U.S. receives throughout the country comes from a failure to protect the population.
"Preoccupied with force protection, ISAF has operated in a manner that distances itself, both physically and psychologically, from the people they seek to protect," McChrystal wrote in the Aug. 30 review. "The Afghan people have paid the price, and the mission has been put at risk… Hard-earned credibility and face-to-face relationships, rather than close combat, will achieve success."
Above all else Afghans want an end to war, which has been waged here for the last three decades. If the U.S. can convince them that more troops can bring that peace, then the population could support the idea.
"If the bombing of villages and killing of civilians continue, then of course this notion and perception of being an occupier force would get more strength," says Nadery of the Afghan Human Rights Commission. "But if we change the way we need to change in terms of conducting the operation in the right way -- as Gen. McChrystal now says, making the population and their protection the center of the strategy -- then I'm confident that those perception would immediately change. People do not like the Taliban and they would not see the foreign forces as occupiers if we do things in the right way."