Expected Afghan Rebel Foray May Be Late, General Warns

Expected Afghan Rebel Foray May Be Late, General Warns
April 18th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Expected Afghan Rebel Foray May Be Late, General Warns

Expected Afghan Rebel Foray May Be Late, General Warns
New York Times
April 18, 2007
By C. J. Chivers
KABUL, Afghanistan, April 17 — An anticipated spring offensive by insurgents in Afghanistan has not materialized on a large scale, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan said Tuesday, but he warned that violence in the country could still reach the levels of last year and that poppy production would continue to increase.
The commander, Gen. Dan K. McNeill of the United States Army, also said he expected insurgents to shift tactics toward using more suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices. That prediction was consistent with recent events; several bombings have occurred in Afghanistan in the last week, aimed at the police and the United Nations.
Still, General McNeill’s remarks, after weeks of rising temperatures and skirmishes with the insurgents, reflected a sense among many Western military officers that the Taliban and their tribal allies had not conducted guerrilla operations on the scale the insurgents had predicted.
He suggested that insurgents had not been able to meet their expectations because of military operations by the International Security Assistance Force, the 36,000-member NATO-led force under his command.
For several weeks, thousands of its troops have been involved in a security operation called Operation Achilles in southern Afghanistan.
“We heard the much-ballyhooed spring offensive that the insurgents were going to make, and if there is an offensive — I am confident, I say and believe — we were first out of the block,” he said, in an interview at his headquarters here. “What we did in effect was launch a spoiling attack.”
But he cautioned against complacency, and left open the possibility that insurgent activity might increase after the poppy harvest, which is just beginning in several areas. It typically runs through late spring, depending on the region. Many Afghan men are involved in poppy cultivation and are not available to fight until after the harvest.
General McNeill spoke a day after another senior American officer, Maj. Gen. Robert E. Durbin, offered details of the planned infusion of money and equipment meant to make the indigenous forces more effective.
The United States spent about $2 billion from 2002 to 2006 on Afghanistan’s security forces, according to the unit General Durbin commands, the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, which equips and acts as mentors for the Afghan army and police. This fiscal year, the United States plans to spend $3.4 billion, part of the effort to contain and eventually defeat the insurgents.
General Durbin, an Army officer, said in an interview that if the latest budget proposals were approved, the United States would spend $5.9 billion next fiscal year.
In addition to expanding training, the money would arm Afghan forces as they have not been armed since the Taliban were chased from power in 2001. By late 2008, he said, Afghanistan’s forces would have more than 100 helicopters and 2,000 to 3,000 armored Humvees, vehicles like those used to protect American soldiers in Iraq from roadside bombs.
He said Afghan forces would have larger artillery pieces and “scores” of fixed-wing aircraft to bring intensified firepower against the insurgents, who operate in much of southern and eastern Afghanistan. “We have what I would call a very sound and effective program,” he said.
The two generals also said that the Afghan Army was performing well, but that the national police forces, which have had less money and training from international donors, needed more improvement.
Although General McNeill spoke with a degree of confidence about the initial spring campaign, he made clear that the insurgency remained potent and could be changing tactics. In recent days, for example, bombings have occurred in Kandahar, Khost and Kunduz.
He also spoke of difficulties beyond NATO’s immediate reach, including Taliban staging and training areas outside Afghanistan.
“Our strategy is not about killing insurgents,” he said. “It’s about defeating the insurgent strategy. It’s about separating the insurgents from the people. How effective can it be if there are sanctuaries for the insurgents that lie just out of reach of this country?”
He declined to cite any nation for permitting sanctuaries, but many insurgents travel freely in Pashtun areas of Pakistan. He also declined to predict when the insurgency would be defeated. But, in discussing counterinsurgency tactics generally, he uttered one word, “Patience.”
He swept aside the darker assessments of United States involvement in Afghanistan, saying that this year counterinsurgency efforts have had success.
“Those who tell me, ‘Too little, too late,’ I’m just simply not buying that, and especially if they try to denigrate the American effort here,” he said. “Because America has put much into the country, in the way of human capital as well as money, to help get this country back on its feet.”

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