The nation’s new national security team today sounded the alarm about the war in Afghanistan at the annual Munich Security Conference.
President Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. Jim Jones (Ret.), said of the effort in Afghanistan, "The international coordination was spotty at best. We tended to focus too much on the military reconstruction part, which was important but not the only thing that should have been done.
"The troops alone will not be sufficient and we have to… engage in the broad spectrum of things," Jones said. "I want to stress that it’s the cohesion of the international effort that has to be better put together in order to be successful."
"I have never seen anything like the mess we have inherited," said Richard Holbrooke, the State Department’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. "It’s going to be a long, difficult struggle. In my view, it’s going to be much tougher than Iraq."
“There is no magic formula in Afghanistan," said Holbrooke. “There is no Dayton agreement in Afghanistan."
Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, told the conference that the war in Afghanistan "has deteriorated markedly in the past two years…Afghanistan has been known over the years as the graveyard of empires. We cannot take that history lightly."
Petraeus said that U.S. and NATO forces need to build alliances with local tribal leaders and integrate themselves into villages, as proved successful in Iraq.
"You can’t commute to work in the conduct of counterinsurgency operations," Petraeus said. “A nuanced appreciation of local situations is essential” to understanding “the tribal structures, the powerbrokers, the good guys and the bad guys, local cultures and history."
There are about 36,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan currently, though Obama administration officials have discussed sending 30,000 additional troops there. Other countries have approximately 32,000 troops there under NATO command.
On Sunday, the supreme allied commander of U.S. forces in Europe, Gen. John Craddock, called for NATO to send 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan, and Petraeus said he “would be remiss if I did not ask individual countries to examine very closely what forces and other contributions they can provide" before the elections in August.
Said Holbrooke, "NATO’s future is on the line here."