Afghan Surge Not Working: Experts Urge US to Seek Settlement

December 13th, 2010 - by admin & Ben Farmer / The Telegraph & Kevin Connolly / BBC News – 2010-12-13 22:02:55

Afghan Surge Not Working: Experts Urge US to Seek Settlement

Afghan Surge Not Working: Experts Urge US to Seek Settlement
Jason Ditz /

WASHINGTON (December 13, 2010) — With President Obama busily preparing a public address to inform the American public that the Afghan War is now a runaway success and to release a “public version” of the official assessment of the war, his administration is getting another pesky reminder that the actual war isn’t going near so well as the public statements would suggest.

An open letter was released today, signed by a number of experts and analysts, warning that the Afghan War has failed, that Gen. Petraeus’ southern offensive is “not going well,” and that the administration should save face and negotiate a settlement with the Taliban.

The letter is largely in keeping with the reality from a myriad of recent reports on the war, including a Congressional report noting spiraling violence and a “surprisingly resilient” insurgency. Indeed, the death toll in 2010 was precipitously higher than any other year of the war.

When he announced his massive December escalation last year, President Obama promised a year end review and a major reexamining of the conflict if the war wasn’t going significantly better. By all accounts, it is going much, much worse now. But all he really needs is a false claim of success, and that is exactly what officials are going to provide on Thursday.

US Surge in Afghanistan
Is ‘Not Working’ Say Experts

Ben Farmer / The Telegraph

KABUL (December 13, 2010) — America’s surge strategy in Afghanistan is not working and it should begin peace negotiations with Taliban leaders according to experts on the country who have written an open letter to Barack Obama.

They warn Gen David Petraeus’ southern offensive is “not going well”, the war is financially unsustainable, security is worsening and Islamabad’s support for the Taliban means “it is not realistic to bet on a military solution”.

The letter, signed by 23 academics, journalists, analysts and former diplomats, says Washington should instead “seriously explore the possibility of a political settlement in which the Taliban are part of the Afghan political system.”

Their bleak assessment of the nine-year-long campaign is at odds with the expected conclusions of a White House review to be published on Thursday.

That will say progress can be seen after an influx of 30,000 United States’ reinforcements has established security in pockets of southern Afghanistan and around Kabul.

However the letter says the campaign is only “suppressing, locally and temporarily, the symptoms of the disease, but fails to offer a cure.”

The coalition’s counter-insurgency strategy “is now a full-scale military campaign causing civilian casualties and destruction of property”.

It continues: “Due to the violence of the military operations, we are losing the battle for hearts and minds in the Pashtun countryside, with a direct effect on the sustainability of the war.”

The coalition allies’ plan to build an Afghan army and police force to take over security duties by the end of 2014 was unrealistic.

Current tentative contacts between Hamid Karzai’s government and the Taliban were insufficient and America had to “take the initiative to start negotiations with the insurgents” it said.

One year after Barack Obama decided to increase US forces to 100,000 in an overhaul of the war, Gen Petraeus is under pressure to show the gamble succeeded.

But many districts remain beyond government control in the south and security is worsening in the north. Insurgent attacks and civilian deaths both remain at record levels, while foreign troop deaths have hit 692. On Sunday, six US troops were killed in Zhari district in Kandahar, when a minibus packed with explosives detonated as they prepared to go on control.

Afghanistan War:
US Says Violence Reaches All-time High

Kevin Connolly / BBC News

Washington (November 23, 2010) — The Pentagon says Taliban forces are exploiting Afghan perceptions NATO troops will soon pull out.

Violence in Afghanistan has reached an all-time high, with clashes up fourfold since 2007, the Pentagon has said.

In a twice-annual report to the US Congress, the Pentagon said progress had been “uneven”, with only modest gains against the Taliban insurgency.

The Pentagon also reported gains in security, governance, and development in key areas.

But it warned the Taliban was exploiting perceptions NATO countries would soon withdraw combat forces.

‘Resilient Insurgency’
In a report covering the period between 1 April and 30 September, the Pentagon attributed much of the increase in violence to the growth in the coalition force after US President Barack Obama’s escalation this year.

“Efforts to reduce insurgent capacity, such as safe havens and logistic support originating in Pakistan and Iran, have not produced measurable results,” the report states.

“The insurgency has proven resilient with sustained logistics capacity and command and control.”

In the week when NATO’s political leaders talked up the prospects for an end to combat operations and spoke in terms of winding down — or even winding up — the Western presence in Afghanistan, the Pentagon assessment makes sobering reading.

It depicts an enemy which has the support of Iran and continuing access to safe havens along the Pakistani border. The insurgency emerges from the Pentagon report as resilient, adaptable and sophisticated.

The section which will make the grimmest reading for NATO’s political leaders, and particularly those in Washington, deals with the alliance’s desire to set a timetable for withdrawal within four years while also arguing that the war is winnable.

The report says the Taliban draws strength from a belief among the Afghan people that NATO forces will soon leave the country, clearing the way for a Taliban victory.

The read-out is not entirely negative — there is talk of uneven progress and modest gains in security and development in patches — but overall there is not much to cheer the Obama administration and its allies.

But it cited evidence NATO counter-insurgency efforts had “localised” effects in areas of Helmand and Kandahar provinces, and said the NATO strategy had yielded “cumulative effects”.

“Security is slowly beginning to expand,” the report states.

“Indications of local resistance to insurgents continue to emerge alongside positive indications, such as newly opened schools and police stations.”

The Pentagon also said Taliban fighters were exploiting moves among NATO countries to withdraw combat forces.

Canada is due to pull its combat forces out in 2011, and President Barack Obama has also said he will begin removing US troops in July 2011, with security duties to be turned over to Afghan police and army units.

“The Taliban’s strength lies in the Afghan population’s perception that coalition forces will soon leave, giving credence to the belief that a Taliban victory is inevitable,” the report says.

“The Taliban is not a popular movement, but it exploits a population frustrated by weak governance.”

America would deny it is going to leave, says the BBC’s Mark Mardell in Washington, but a handover by collation forces in four years’ time is exactly what was agreed at the NATO summit last weekend.

Very indirectly, the US defence department is suggesting the strategy of American, British and other politicians is the cause of the Taliban’s success, our correspondent adds.

Approximately 97,000 US troops and 48,800 troops from other countries are in Afghanistan at present.

Since January 2009, when Mr Obama took office, the US has more than tripled the number of civilians in the country, to 1,100, including diplomats, criminal investigators and drug enforcement agents and agricultural experts.

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