U.S. generals gauge where fight in Afghanistan is headed.



(CNN) -- Sending 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan is the centerpiece of the Obama administration's strategy for winning there . Commanders say victory is achievable, but those in the field expect a long road ahead.
A machine gun points out from a U.S. Marine helicopter flying over southwest Afghanistan.

A machine gun points out from a U.S. Marine helicopter flying over southwest Afghanistan.

CNN exclusively joined Gen. James Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, in southern Afghanistan to get a firsthand look at where the fight is headed.

Right now, 39,000 U.S. troops are on the ground in Afghanistan, and in the weeks ahead, 8,000 Marines will join the fight.

In announcing his strategy for the region last month, President Obama said that more troops, new legislation, improved troop training and added civilian expertise are needed to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

CNN spoke with some senior U.S. officers to assess the state of the war.

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. James Nicholson said there are some places where the Taliban are now in control.

"There are some areas because we haven't had, to date, sufficient forces on the ground," he said.

Obama said last month that U.S. soldiers and Marines "will take the fight to the Taliban in the south and east" and will work with Afghan troops along the border.

Gen. David McKiernan, commander of the International Security Assistance Force, said that, for now, "it remains stalemated in the south."

"The insurgency has grown dramatically over the last year," said Adm. Michael Mullen.

Conway predicted that casualties among U.S. troops will rise over what they have been.

Michael Hastings, a contributor for GQ magazine who just returned from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, said he felt a sense of skepticism among U.S. commanders and soldiers in regard a long-term strategy in Afghanistan.

"Essentially, the questions these officials asked were, 'What are we winning? Even if we win in Afghanistan, what is exactly that we're winning?' Maybe the answer is, maybe we're winning security gains, but that's not even for sure and certainly no guarantee of that," said Hastings, who was embedded with American forces

"I think there is skepticism whether or not this is a good thing to do in the long run," he said.

Here's what the U.S. troops are up against in the south:

# Insurgents are launching increasingly sophisticated ambush attacks.

# Roadside bombs are the No. 1 killer, and mine detectors haven't been working as well as predicted.

# Conway is concerned that there won't be enough helicopters to quickly evacuate wounded Marines from the battlefield, as fighting is expected to occur in remote locations.

# The United States has intelligence that top Taliban and insurgent leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan are joining forces.

U.S. troops are looking for one man in particular who goes by the battlefield name Zakir. He was released from the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and U.S. troops think he is now operating in southern Afghanistan.

Asked whether Zakir, released from the military prison camp two years ago, is a serious threat, McKiernan said, "Absolutely, and we are seriously after him."

The Obama administration is sending thousands of extra troops and billions of dollars in aid, but still, commanders warn, there could be years of battle ahead.


In spite of the absolutely brilliant job the British Army's doing in AFG, any war there is unwinnable and is just needlessly throwing away valuable lives. The Brits and the Septics (and all the rest) should just pull out and leave them to it. End of.



War Hero
Bugsy said:
In spite of the absolutely brilliant job the British Army's doing in AFG, any war there is unwinnable and is just needlessly throwing away valuable lives. The Brits and the Septics (and all the rest) should just pull out and leave them to it. End of.
I think the concern should we do so is exactly what effect leaving them to 'it' will have on us in the longer term. You fancy going back and starting all over again in five years when sky scrapers in the West are falling over?

Without the pressure applied by NATO on the Taliban within Afghan I'd give Pakistan's government about five minutes to live. Then what? We'd be better off getting into the bed with India now, pooling resources and doing the whole village. It's going to happen anyway sooner or later so better to do it on our terms and timeline I'd have thought.

Also please define what you think a 'win' would look like because you are probably setting the bar considerably higher than those making policy*.

* I use the term loosely.


All those US Commanders stating what the British Forces have been saying for years...

...not enough troops on the ground...more helicopter support..yadda, yadda.

The Yanks will provide more troops into the area, but without proper logistics and support I (like many others) can see Afghanistan turning into another Vietnam.

As for pulling out and leaving them to it...won't work. I don't want to see any more coalition force members killed than anyone else but these 'insurgents' are cut from the same cloth that attacked the twin towers. Leaving them to it will only cause us the same problems, but further down the line, and perhaps at the cost of even more lives.

Better to nip it in the bud (assuming it isn't too late) now.
yes leave them to it, effectively giving them the terrorist equivalent of brecon to train for ops elsewhere, of course that isnt to say they arnt already doing such things in other areas of the world (or just over the border for that matter) but based on the fighting that still occurs though it is not a decent solution the more of them we tie up over there the less rock up to our safe havens with boom vests on.
The US really should have had an "accidental fire" at gitmo in which it is with the deepest regret it was unable to save a number of detainees who unfortunately perished. Their bodies will be prepared according to Islamic custom and their relatives given reparations.

I think defining the situation in Afghan is easy, all you need is a pie chart, a laser pointer, and a toilet.
The attack on America was carried out by citizens of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Lebanon.

None of them were Afghans.

As far as I'm aware nobody has ever claimed that any of them ever visited Afghanistan.

Incidentally, trying to stop them coming back is a bit pointless as they're dead. These are deceased terrorists, ex-terrorists, terrorists which have shuffled off this mortal coil, terrorists which are only kept upright by the nails the Western politicians and media have driven through their claws and perches.

Perhaps more to the point, they received the technical training they needed to carry out the attack in the USA. It would have been difficult to train them in Afghanistan as Boeing 747 flight simulators are very rare bits of kit in the Tora Bora caves.

Which raises the equally obvious point that any meaningful attack on the West requires access to technological resources that don't exist in Afghanistan and would be very rare in Pakistan. Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, Malaysia, Indonesia . . . different stories altogether. There are places in those countries where you can breed super viruses easily, as long as you've got the money and the scientific talent. Hands up anybody who thinks it would be a great idea to invade one of those countries?

Personally, I'm not keen on that idea. Then again, I live next door to 240 million Muslims. Just like Leicester, really.

Comparing Afghanistan to the Brecons is quite correct. A howling wilderness where a NCO can learn how to handle a section of gunmen, and that's about it. Not threats to be despised, Mumbai proved that, but hardly the end of civilisation as we know it. And learning the basics of handling an AK47 is something you can do easily enough in a living room in Wolverhampton.

As for knocking off Pakistan, look at the map. Their nuclear missiles can destroy all the Middle East oil production production facilities in an hour. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would hang himself the next day before breakfast. The rest of the British population would be out trying to steal bicycles and horses.

"Nipping the threat in the bud?" If there ever was a bud it's long since grown into a huge oak tree because of one totally pointless and totally screwed up war after another.

Gaza proved it all over again. The West isn't at war with the Muslims. Just the ones we can kick around. The Afghans do not fit into that category.

Remember the Reagan doctrine: never invade any country that's bigger than the President's ranch.

Remember the Bush doctrine: never elect a President dumber than his cows.

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