NATO general says more troops will break Afghanistan ‘stalemate’
March 21, 2009
ARLINGTON, Va. — Southern Afghanistan is widely considered Taliban territory.
Gen. David McKiernan, commander of all U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan has called the situation in the south a "stalemate."
The commander of NATO forces there said people often come up to him and say the insurgents control 80 percent of southern Afghanistan.
"I can tell you that 80 percent of the territory is occupied by nobody because it’s desert or it’s just mountainous terrain," said Dutch Maj. Gen. Mart de Kruif.
NATO forces currently control about 60 percent of the populated areas in southern Afghanistan, but more troops are needed to expand into areas it does not control, de Kruif told reporters Friday.
"When we talk about ‘stalemate,’ I think it’s fair to say from an ISAF point of view, we are not stopped by the insurgency, but we just ran out of troops," he said.
Three years ago, the insurgents switched from targeting NATO to terrorizing Afghans, including using more roadside bombs, mostly unsophisticated devices using homemade explosives, he said.
That means NATO must provide 24-hour security to Afghans in areas where NATO operates, requiring more troops, de Kruif said.
The U.S. has announced it is sending about 17,000 extra troops to Afghanistan beginning this spring.
De Kruif said he expects a "significant spike in incidents" following the influx of more U.S. troops as NATO moves to expand control over areas of southern Afghanistan and attack the triad of insurgents, narcotics and roadside bombs.
"After that, and after the elections; however, I think that what we are doing now is actually planting the seeds and that will lead to a significant increase in the security situation in Afghanistan next year," he said.
De Kruif also noted there is more than one type of Taliban in southern Afghanistan.
"You have the religious, hard-core Taliban; you have the Taliban who is very linked to the narcotics trade, and you’ve got the Taliban who gets $10 a day to pick up a gun and start shooting."