Operation to secure Kandahar to be pushed back, says US general


BRUSSELS – The top US commander in Afghanistan said yesterday that major parts of the military operation to secure Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement, would be pushed back because it was taking longer than expected to win local support.

“I don’t intend to hurry it,” said Gen Stanley McChrystal, visiting Brussels for a meeting of Nato leaders. “It will take a number of months for this to play out. But I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s more important we get it right than we get it fast.”

US and Nato commanders began laying the groundwork this spring for their campaign to gain control of Kandahar, an operation considered crucial to the success of President Barack Obama’s strategy for the Afghan war.

The military side of the campaign was originally scheduled to surge in June and largely end by August. But Gen McChrystal said it was taking longer than anticipated to gain the blessing of local tribal leaders – and Kandaharis in general – for the operation.

He also said commanders needed more time to ensure that the Afghan government could step in after the fighting stops and provide effective public services, something that has been lacking in Kandahar for years. “When you go to protect people, the people have to want you to protect them,” Gen McChrystal told reporters. “It’s a deliberate process. It takes time to convince people.”

US and Afghan officials have been trying to negotiate deals with Kandahari leaders before foreign troops enter the city and surrounding province in greater force. The Taliban has responded with an intimidation campaign, assassinating several key leaders and making clear that anyone who co-operates with the foreigners or central government does so at high risk. – (Washington Post/Bloomberg)