Afghanistan Security No Longer Deteriorating

Feb 4, 2010 2:35pm

ABC News' Luis Martinez reports: Gen. Stanley McChrystal believes that the security situation in Afghanistan remains serious, but is no longer deteriorating, which is how he’d characterized it last summer. He also says that even though there’s been significant progress, he’s “not prepared to say we’ve turned a corner.” McChrystal, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan is in Istanbul for a meeting of NATO Defense Ministers, including Defense Secretary Gates. He made his comments to print and radio reporters traveling with Gates. McChrystal says he has no official metrics to back up his assessment, but is basing it on intuitive metrics. “I’m not prepared to give you numbers,” he said. ”But I’m prepared to tell you that what I see and what I feel gives me that sense. ” He also says he’s not prepared to say that NATO is now winning in Afghanistan, though he’s confident “that we are going to see serious progress this year.” Asked by ABC’s Diane Sawyer in Afghanistan last month if momentum had shifted, McChrystal said, ” I believe were doing that now. I believe that we have changed  the way we operate in Afghanistan we changed some of our structures and I believe that we are on the way to convincing the Afghan people that we are here to protect them.” Recent statements from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, and the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, have pointed to the Taliban’s expanding influence in Afghanistan.   McChrystal said he hadn’t seen Adm. Mullen’s statement, but he agreed that the Taliban are making a significant effort to expand their influence, though he noted the Afghan government, with US help, was mounting a similar effort as well.”  According to McChrystal the surge of 30,000 forces into Afghanistan this year is continuing because the military services “are working miracles” and “absolutely moving as fast as physically possible” to get the troops into the country. McChrystal described the war in Afghanistan as “a war of perceptions” where influencing the Afghan population and insurgents was more important than Taliban body counts or how much land you capture.  The important thing is to influence Afghan perceptions because it could lead to a shift in momentum.  “This is all in the minds of the participants and I mean,  the Afghan people are the most important, but the insurgents are another one,” he said. McChrystal indicated that was one reason why military officials in Afghanistan have not been shy in telegraphing that NATO forces are planning to take on the Taliban holdout of Marjah, in central Helmand Province.  He admitted it might be an unconventional approach, but that it was an  attempt to signal to the Afghan population that “we are expanding security where they live.”   McChrystal added that word of a coming offensive was also a signal to the Taliban and druglords in the Marjah area, “that it’s about to change.  If they want to fight, then obviously that will have to be an outcome, but if they don’t want to fight, that’s fine too.” He said he’d prefer  the Taliban see “the inevitability that things are changing” and that there’s an opportunity for them to make a choice about  what they’re going to do, “before suddenly in the dark of night they’re hit with an offensive.”

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