America

U.S. Military Seeks More Time For Afghan Counterinsurgency

U.S. soldiers in Kandahar

US soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division launch a mortar shell toward insurgent positions in Kandahar, Afghanistan in  July 2010. Rodrigo Abd/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Rodrigo Abd/AP

U.S. military officials managing the Afghanistan War are seeking more time from lawmakers and, ultimately, the U.S. public to implement their counterinsurgency strategy.

That information comes from the New York Times which reports that the American military is formulating an argument essentially meant to give President Barack Obama the political cover he would need to slow walk the number of U.S. troops he withdraws from Afghanistan starting next July.

With the administration unable yet to point to much tangible evidence of progress, Gen. David H. Petraeus, who assumed command in Afghanistan last month from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, is taking several steps to emphasize hopeful signs on the ground that, he will argue, would make a rapid withdrawal unwise. Meanwhile, a rising generation of young officers, who have become expert over the past nine years in the art of counterinsurgency, have begun quietly telling administration officials that they need time to get their work done.

“Their argument,” said one senior administration official, who would not speak for attribution about the internal policy discussions, “is that while we’ve been in Afghanistan for 9 years, only in the past 12 months or so have we started doing this right, and we need to give it some time and think about what our long-term presence in Afghanistan should look like.”

When Obama named Petraeus to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the top U.S. officer in Afghanistan, some analysts predicted that might move might win the U.S. military more time.

But as the Times reports, pressure is mounting in Congress and among the public for a firmer timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops.

This underscores one of the biggest challenges facing U.S. troops fighting the Afghan insurgency.

The U.S.' adversaries there know that American policymakers, under political and economic pressure, would like to unwind the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, the insurgents, many of them from the region, have all the time in the world.

All they have to do is try to keep Afghanistan ungovernable for the remainder of the time U.S. troops are on the ground there.

It appears the insurgents were having continued success on that front. U.S. military officials reportedly told reporters to expect major pushback by the Taliban and other insurgents that likely could slow NATO progress in the Kandahar offensive.

The Associated Press reported:

WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. military leaders say they expect heavy fighting around the key Afghan city of Kandahar through this fall, leaving little time to show big results there this year.

One senior military official in Washington says to expect some tough fighting north and west of Kandahar once the holy period of Ramadan is over. The official says special operations forces that focus on killing or capturing Taliban fighters will have a big role.

The official briefed reporters and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss coming operations. The U.S. had hoped for clearer signs of success in Kandahar before a review of the war planned for the end of the year.

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