Afghan insurgents quadruple in number; most not Taliban
Number of insurgents quadruples in four years; fighters may not be Taliban, or even religiously motivated
Retired Gen. Jack Keane told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that if he were Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, he would resign if President Barack Obama didn’t fulfill his request for more troops.
Meanwhile, at almost the same time, Arizona Sen. John McCain told CNN’s John King that rejecting Gen. McChrystal’s request for 40,000 more troops for the Afghanistan war effort “would be an error of historic proportions.”
The pressure on Obama to significantly expand the Afghan war effort comes in the wake of the president’s surprise receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, as well as several reports indicating that the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate.
An Obama administration estimate released Friday shows that the number of Taliban insurgents has grown fourfold in the past four years, rising from 7,000 to 25,000 fighters.
And, on Saturday, Afghanistan’s defense minister claimed that thousands of foreign fighters have pouring over the Afghan border to fight the US and its NATO allies.
“The minister’s comments hit on a key worry of the United States — that not sending enough troops to Afghanistan will open the door back up to al Qaeda,” CBS News reported. “They also suggest that the Afghan government is nervous about the US commitment amid talk of changing the strategy and a surge in violence in recent months.”
To add to all that, a recent report in the Boston Globe suggests the international forces in Afghanistan may not even be certain about the nature of the enemy they are fighting.
“Nearly all of the insurgents battling US and NATO troops in Afghanistan are not religiously motivated Taliban and Al Qaeda warriors, but a new generation of tribal fighters vying for control of territory, mineral wealth, and smuggling routes, according to summaries of new US intelligence reports,” the newspaper stated.
The Globe added that many of the groups now fighting the US were actually opposed to the Taliban government of the 1990s.
For Sen. McCain (R-AZ), the solution is to ramp up the war effort. On CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, McCain told host John King that the US can’t win in Afghanistan with fewer than 40,000 additional troops.
“I think the great danger now is not an American pullout,” he said. “I think the great danger is a half-measure, sort of trying to please all ends of the political spectrum. I have great sympathy for the president, making the toughest decisions a president can make.”
Asked by King if a smaller troop increase of 10,000 or 20,000 troops would amount to a “rebuke” of the strategy Gen. Mcchrystal laid out this spring, and if McChrystal should resign as a result, McCain said, ‘I really don’t know.’
But, he added, “I think to disregard the requirements that have been laid out and agreed to by Gen. [David] Petraeus and [Adm. Mike] Mullen would be an error of historic proportions.”
But speaking on ABC’s This Week, retired Gen. Jack Keane had no such qualms. Asked if he would have resigned if it were his Afghan strategy that were over-ridden, Keane said “yes.”
“I can’t speak to what General McChrystal’s reaction will be,” Keane told ABC’s Stephanopoulos. “I can say this, if you’re a general on the ground and you believe that a recommendation you made is the winning recommendation, in terms of strategy, that will accomplish the goals that you have been assigned, and then you’re told that you can’t execute that and ask the troops to go out and do something else that you don’t believe will accomplish those goals, that gets very difficult in terms of a moral dilemma — asking your troops to do something that you believe will fail.”
This video is from ABC’s This Week, broadcast Oct. 11, 2009.