Game Changing Shifts in the Momentum in Afghanistan
by Charles Lemos, Tue Jun 09, 2009 at 11:50:58 AM EDT
On the situation in Afghanistan, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen thinks the next 12 to 18 months will really tell the tale. And in comments to a Senate Appropriations panel, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted that steps taken over the next 18 months to defeat the Taliban militias will ultimately decide whether the war in Afghanistan is being won or lost though the blunt but cautious Secretary went on to add that by this he does not mean the Afghan campaign would achieve success in that time, but rather that officials hoped to "see a shift in the momentum" by then. He might have a chat with Col. George Amland who spoke to reporters at Camp Leatherneck, a rapidly expanding base now home to around 7,000 U.S. Marines preparing to push deeper into Helmand province, telling them the arrival of new troops in Afghanistan is a "game changer".
From the New York Times:
President Barack Obama has ordered 21,000 troops to Afghanistan this summer to beat back the Taliban eight years after the U.S.-led invasion and create the conditions needed for the Afghan government to extend its influence and allow foreign forces to return home.
Helmand borders Pakistan, where U.S. and European commanders say Taliban insurgents have enjoyed a safe haven in recent years. Washington has targeted insurgents there with missiles fired from unmanned drones and is trying to get Islamabad to take firmer action, believing it to be essential for success in Afghanistan.
The Marines' current area of operations is around 18,000 square kilometers (7,000 square miles), but they are not yet present in the border area.
Amland, the deputy commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade Afghanistan, said in the future the Marines and NATO forces "would address those traffic lines between Afghanistan and Pakistan."
Britain has several thousand troops in Helmand that have proved unable to stop the insurgency, and critics have predicted Obama's troop surge may be too small and too late to defeat the Taliban.
Amland disputed that prediction, saying the troop deployment was "an appreciable investment" that would provide a base for the Afghan government and security forces to build on.
"It is a very big game changer to have this many Marines in an area this size," said Amland.
Tackling poverty and underdevelopment would be a game changer in the daily lives of the Afghan people, more troops is just more of an unending war. The Taliban cannot be defeated by militarily means alone.
It is somewhat curious, though not surprising, that we are being promised these game change shifts in the momentum in Afghanistan just as the War Supplemental is being debated in Washington.