The White House said, on Monday 08/10/2009, that President Barack Obama has a “winning” strategy in Afghanistan and enough forces on the ground to achieve USA goals despite advances by the Taliban. “The president’s strategy hasn’t fully been implemented just yet” – spokesman Bill Burton said (see also – Toughest Challange).
The assurances came as the top USA commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published few hours earlier, that after eight years of war in Afghanistan the Taliban were gaining momentum. The U.S. death toll will remain high for some time as the Taliban has gained the upper hand, he said.
The New York Times also reported on Monday the US has put 50 Afghans suspected to be drug traffickers with Taliban links, on a list of people to be “captured or killed” (see – Afghan Poppy). Two American generals have told the US Congress that the policy is legal under the military’s rules of engagement and international law. It can be interpreted as targeting only the drug lords affiliated to the Taliban while the other drug lords, many of them related to the Afghan regime itself, will be handled through the corrupted Afghan police (which means – they will be ignored).
Indeed poppy production in Afghanistan, in 2001, was reduced under 2,700 tons a year. The opium production almost tripled and is estimated as 8,200 tonnes in 2007, accounting for 93% of global production. Helmand and Kandahar provinces, where there is a strong presence of NATO-ISAF forces, are producing about 2/3 of the total Afghan opium. In 2008 there was a small reduction in the opium production in Afghanistan although it remains more then twice then in 2001 under the Taliban regime.
The new winning strategy is therefore made up of a number of elements:
A. Growing cooperation with Pakistan and the Pakistani Army to put ongoing pressure on the Taliban in Pakistan and to deny Pakistan from being a safe haven for the Taliban (see – Swat 07.10.09).
B. To increase and enhance the “target killing” of Taliban leaders (see – TTP-Crisis).
C. To legitimize the Afghan government through new elections, scheduled to 08/20/2009. The Afghan regime is considered by the Afghan people as corrupted and inefficient even in Afghani terms and controls less then half of Afghanistan, mainly through ambiguous arrangements with local war and drug lords (see – TALIBANS Rejection).
D. To increase the effort to train the Afghani police and army, as USA did in Iraq, so that the Afghan authorities will be able, gradually, to assume control and responsibility on growing parts of the country.
E. To go after the money and logistic support of the Taliban whether it is affiliated drug gangs, Islamic Charities or Pakistani Taliban.
F. To strengthen the USA troops in Afghanistan with additional 20,000 troops so the total number of NATO-ISAF in Afghanistan will reach 120,000 soldiers.
Even in the best case scenario the implementation of the strategy will last at least few years. In the worst scenario – Afghanistan will remain a “hot potato” for the next USA administration.
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