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Afghan insurgents try to wait out NATO: analyst

More troops needed in Afghanistan: NATO chief
NATO's new Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen insisted Friday that more troops were needed in Afghanistan if the alliance was to complete a successful handover of security to local forces. NATO would need to step up military efforts in the coming years as well as boosting civil reconstruction, Rasmussen told BBC radio from Kabul. "Honestly speaking, I think we need more troops," the former Danish prime minister said.

"I have seen progress in the south, not least thanks to the increase in the number of troops. So definitely the number of troops matters. "However, we also have to realise that there is no military solution solely. "We have to provide the Afghan people with better life opportunities as well if we are to win hearts and minds, and this will be at the core of our new strategy.

Canada rejects NATO call to stay in Afghanistan past 2011
Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon reaffirmed Thursday Canada's 2011 exit from Afghanistan despite reported pleas from NATO's chief for an extension of Canada's deployment in the war-torn country. "Our government is abiding by the motion passed in parliament in 2008 -- that is that our combat forces will leave by 2011," Cannon said. Canada currently has some 2,800 troops based in Kandahar as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. So far, 127 Canadian soldiers, as well as a diplomat and two humanitarian aid workers from Canada, have been killed in Afghanistan. In 2008, parliament voted to withdraw Canadian forces no later than 2011.

Georgian parliament approves troops for Afghanistan
Georgia's parliament on Thursday approved plans for the pro-Western former Soviet republic to send troops to bolster NATO-led security forces in Afghanistan. Lawmakers voted unanimously to send an infantry battalion and an infantry company from Georgia's armed forces to serve in Afghanistan, parliament spokeswoman Nino Tatuladze told AFP. The decree foresees Georgian servicemen serving with French and US contingents, she said.

The defence ministry could not confirm exactly how many troops would be sent, but US officials had earlier said Georgia was to send about 500 soldiers to Afghanistan next year. Close to 90,000 foreign forces, most of them Americans, are stationed in Afghanistan, fighting an increasingly bloody insurgency being waged by the Taliban and its allies. About 2,000 Georgian troops were deployed in Iraq from August 2003 but were rushed back to Georgia in August last year for a battle with Russian forces over the rebel South Ossetia region. Georgia will mark the anniversary of the start of its conflict with Russia on Friday.

Colombia to send 84 soldiers to Afghanistan
Colombia will send 84 infantry soldiers to join the NATO-run International Security Assistance Force under Spanish command, officials here announced Friday. The soldiers will travel in two groups of 42, the first in 2010 and the second in 2011, said visiting Spanish Vice President Maria Teresa Fernandez in a Bogota press conference. Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos said that the soldiers will provide security at Spanish bases, and said that Colombian participation with the ISAF could increase in the future.

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Aug 6, 2009
Taliban insurgents are exploiting popular frustration with the Afghan government and trying to hold out until NATO-led forces leave the country, a top US general's former advisor said on Thursday.

"The Taliban strategy, looking at from here, seems to be one of exhaustion to basically wait us out until we get tired and go home," David Kilcullen, who advised the US military on counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq.

The militants are mostly avoiding direct confrontation with US and coalition forces and biding their time, Kilcullen told a Washington audience at the US Institute for Peace.

"You can see in the way they're organizing the population, intimidating the population, not fighting the coalition forces, not fighting the Afghan government -- but just trying to sort of keep their powder dry and wait for another day," he said.

Kilcullen, a former Australian army officer and author on irregular warfare, was credited with helping shape a successful US counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq under the then commander, General David Petraeus, now head of US Central Command.

"Most insurgents defeat the counter-insurgent by causing the home government to lose confidence and give up," he said.

"They're not going to defeat us on the ground in Afghanistan. But they could defeat us in London, in Washington, in Ottawa and cause the international community to pull out."

Breaking the intimidating influence of the insurgents means winning a war of perceptions among Afghans, but the Kabul government's reputation for corruption poses a threat to the international effort, Kilcullen said.

"You have to work with a legitimate Afghan government, and that's one of the critical weaknesses we have right now," he said.

The Taliban seeks to exploit discontent with Kabul and take advantage of a vacuum at the local level where government authorities are often absent or ineffective, he said.

One Taliban commander has even set up a panel to hear complaints from Afghans about his forces, and promised swift action if one of his troops was at fault, he said.

Kilcullen's comments came as the top commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General David McChrystal, prepares a pivotal assessment of the war effort amid speculation he may press for more US combat troops -- a politically-charged issue in Washington.

Kilcullen said more US and NATO troops were needed to prevail in the Afghan fight, but it was impossible to find enough manpower to cover the entire country, he said.

"We do not have the forces available to secure the whole country at the level we need to. What we need to start doing is a fairly ruthless triage," he said, looking at "where are we, where do we need to be."

earlier related report
Outside View: Afghanistan reconstruction
by Lawrence Sellin
Washington (UPI) Aug 7 - Often we don't learn at all. Sometimes, we simply become more effective at doing the wrong thing. In February 2009 a report issued by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction titled "Hard Lessons: the Iraq Reconstruction Experience" described massive waste, fraud and a lack of accountability in the $50 billion relief and reconstruction project in Iraq, most of it done by private U.S. contractors.

At that time, the report's senior author, Stuart Bowen, suggested that many of the same mistakes will likely occur again in Afghanistan because none of the substantive changes in oversight, contracting and reconstruction planning or personnel assignments that Congress, auditors and outside experts proposed for Iraq have been implemented in Afghanistan.

Less than two months after the release of the Iraq report, problems in the Afghanistan reconstruction program began to appear in the media. The similarities are striking.

A Washington Times report in March 2009 stated that as much as $5 billion of the Iraq reconstruction money was wasted on dubious contracts, often in areas where poor security made development projects unfeasible. Retired U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said that $32 billion spent in Afghanistan since 2001 has been less than effective, in part due to mounting instability in the country.

Both Fields and Bowen said that a lack of U.S. oversight and coordination among various agencies supervising reconstruction has compounded the problems. As stated in the Iraq report, entities such as the departments of Defense and State, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Corps of Engineers mostly act independently under circumstances in which coordination and collaboration are critically needed.

More importantly, Fields has recognized that poor coordination between Americans and their Afghan counterparts risks wasting money and slowing the reconstruction process. As recently as July 19, Fields stated, "There isn't always a direct connection between what the Afghans feel that they need and what the reconstruction effort is delivering."

One of the key recommendations of the Iraq report stressed that programs should be geared to indigenous priorities and needs and that host country buy-in is essential to long-term success. In many cases, there was a lack of sufficient Iraqi participation in deciding how or what to reconstruct and ensuring that projects could be maintained afterward. Sustainability of projects depends upon developing the local capacity of people and systems. Such an approach must include the ability to clearly distinguish between pursuing reconstruction to stimulate long-term economic growth and conducting reconstruction to support a counterinsurgency campaign.

In Iraq the U.S. government failed to strengthen its capacity to manage contractors. Even in late 2005, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad couldn't match projects with the contracts that funded them, nor could it estimate how much they would cost to complete. The report states that reconstruction in Iraq eventually consisted of 62 offices and agencies. There were no command-and-control capabilities, interagency project management or interoperable information systems that could effectively coordinate the activities of the hundreds of firms and subcontractors performing work at thousands of locations across Iraq.

The SIGAR report to Congress dated July 30 said five agencies and commands -- the department of state, the U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Forces -- Afghanistan, Combined Security Transition Command -- Afghanistan and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Afghanistan Engineer District -- play major roles in the implementation of U.S.-funded reconstruction programs in Afghanistan. SIGAR found that the availability and use of information systems for project management varied significantly and didn't allow agencies and commands to share information easily. As the SIGAR correctly noted, a single system providing a common operating picture of the various ongoing projects would contribute enormously to the efficiency and effectiveness of reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

What are we waiting for? Commercially available solutions that enable applications running on different platforms, written in different programming languages, using different data representations or using different programming models to communicate with each other without altering the original applications themselves already exist.

Every day American, NATO, coalition and Afghan troops are risking their lives to provide a secure environment to make reconstruction possible. We owe it to them to get it right, right now.

(Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D., is a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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US strike kills wife of Pakistani Taliban chief: officials
Peshawar, Pakistan (AFP) Aug 5, 2009
The wife of Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud was killed Wednesday in a US drone attack targeting her husband at a home in the tribal belt near the Afghan border, officials said. Suspected US unmanned aircraft and Pakistani strikes have increasingly focused on strongholds of warlord Mehsud, whom Washington calls a key Al-Qaeda facilitator and served with a five-million-dollar price on ... read more

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