Commander says troops needed to hold Afghanistan
April 23, 2009
ARLINGTON, Va. — Until more troops arrive later this spring, the U.S. will not have enough forces in the south of Afghanistan to hold those areas from insurgents, a senior U.S. military commander said Wednesday.
The help may come just in time. The frequency of insurgent attacks is expected to increase as the poppy harvest season concludes in early May.
"We have the ability to clear the enemy just about anywhere we need to. What we’ve had an inability to do here is hold what we’ve cleared. These additional troops allow us to hold," said Maj. Gen. Michael S. Tucker, deputy chief of staff for operations for the International Security Assistance Force and the deputy commander for operations for U.S. Forces Afghanistan.
The vast majority of insurgent attacks — 80 percent — are concentrated in the south, he said.
"In [Regional Command] South we are at a stalemate. We just simply do not have enough forces to address the needs of the people down there," Tucker said.
Conversely, he said, U.S. forces in the east are approaching "irreversible momentum," where they have a combination of the right amount of U.S. and trained Afghan forces, and provincial reconstruction teams conducting development activity.
Once additional troops arrive, Americans can begin moving into southern villages and communities, he said.
Earlier this month, several international aid organizations called for NATO to exercise caution and phase out "militarized aid."
The groups, which included the International Rescue Committee, said "military forces, including NATO, endanger the civilians they aim to protect and contravene international law when they do not clearly identify themselves and inadvertently or deliberately blur the lines between military and humanitarian activities."
Tucker said that in a "population-centric" counter-insurgency campaign, uniformed troops must befriend local communities with humanitarian aid to allow stability to take hold where insurgents were driven out.
"They both work hand-in-hand. One sets the conditions for the other," he said. "But every single operation that we do involves the use of humanitarian aid projects, both simple things like providing cooking oil, stoves, heaters, blankets, radios, soccer balls, et cetera, all the way to paving roads, working with UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan), USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) and other international agencies."