Exclusive: Gen. McChrystal On Front Line of Defense for Afghan Elections

Aug 19, 2009 3:24pm

ABC's Senior Foreign Correspondent Jim Sciutto reports from Afghanistan:On the eve of crucial presidential elections here, we traveled the capital with the commander of US forces, General Stanley McChrystal. His mission today was to coordinate with the Afghan police and military units who form the front-line of defense for the elections. “I think they are pretty well postured. It won’t be perfect but I think it’ll be pretty well done,” he said. “[The Taliban] needed to paralyze the country, so I think so far we’ve been remarkably effective.”Our first stop was the Morehead Commando Training Center outside Kabul, a vast complex where American special forces and private contractors train classes of 750 commandos at a time. With the sound of gunfire and under clouds of billowing smoke, Gen. McChrystal watched the latest class of elite troops stage a live-fire, mock assault on a hillside and, later, perform practice raids on empty buildings.Building up the Afghan military is a major part of Gen. McChrystal’s upcoming assessment of the US mission here. He will likely propose doubling its size.  “They are not has heavily armed, they were not designed for counter-insurgency,” he told me. “And yet we are forced into the position where we are using them for counter-insurgency.”At a special briefing inside the defense ministry’s command center, Gen. McChrystal received reports of the latest insurgent attacks. The situation was tense in Kabul today. According to a US official, intelligence indicated 15 suicide bombers had entered the capital attempting to strike. Five were caught and killed. One potential  target was the presidential palace, where under tight security Gen. McChrystal met President Hamid Karzai at a ceremony marking Afghan independence day. Kabul had not seen a major terror attack in six months, until suicide car bombers struck twice in the last week.”Clearly the insurgency is serious here,” he said. “It has spread geographically. It has spread in intensity in certain areas. So from the measure of that the insurgency is stronger than it was a year ago or two years ago or three years ago. That said, so are we.”When I asked him if the direction is positive or negative, he answered, “I think that it is going to be positive here.”He added an election largely free of violence would be one positive step.

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