NATO backs McChrystal’s Afghanistan strategy

NATO defense ministers Friday endorsed US General McChrystal’s counterinsurgency plan in Afghanistan, increasing pressure on Obama to send more troops. But they didn’t commit to additional resources themselves.

by Gordon Lubold
The Christian Science Monitor
October 23, 2009

BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA – NATO defense ministers Friday gave “broad support” to the counterinsurgency strategy proposed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan, but sidestepped the difficult question of how many forces would be required to implement that plan.

The top UN special envoy for Afghanistan also backed McChrystal’s strategy at the NATO meeting.

“We have come to a point where I believe McChrystal is right,” said Kai Eide here Friday, adding bluntly, “If we continue the way we’ve done so far, both with regard to the military effort, the civilian effort, and the behavior of the Afghan government, this project will not work.”

Taken together, the comments suggest that American allies are leaning toward a more troop-intensive, counterinsurgency approach that opens the political door for President Obama to direct deployments of tens of thousands of additional troops.

The Obama administration is deliberating over what strategy to pursue in Afghanistan – a counterinsurgency approach that focuses on securing the country and winning over the population and that would require many more troops, or a more targeted approach that focuses on taking out Al Qaeda leaders with air strikes.

While signaling support for more troops, NATO minsters did not address the tougher issue of how many more troops to send and stopped short of making additional resource commitments themselves.

“The purpose of today’s meeting was not to make any decision on figures,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during a press event here. “I have noted broad support of all ministers … but without discussing resource implications.”

About 40,000 NATO and non-NATO troops are currently in Afghanistan, in addition to about 68,000 US forces.

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