McChrystal on the Kandahar ‘Process’

By
Thursday, May 13, 2010 at 1:00 pm

The commanding general of NATO forces in Afghanistan repeatedly used the word “process” in a Pentagon press briefing to describe the gradual and ongoing movement of arriving forces into Kandahar, the next big contest of the Afghanistan war. The Taliban “certainly do not control Kandahar city,” Gen. Stanley McChrystal said. But “they can contest parts of Kandahar city. There is not sufficient security in Kandahar city.” Hence the “process” of moving forces — U.S. and Afghan, military and civilian — into the city and its surrounding environments.

“Already we’re not using the term ‘operation’ or ‘major operation,’” McChrystal said, so as not to give the impression of a clear “D-Day” or “H-Hour” like there was in February’s Marja invasion. This isn’t an operation to “recapture an area under enemy control, as Marja was.” Accordingly, McChrystal described it as “a process, not an event.”

That raised the question of how much local appetite there is for the, uh, process. “Their participation helps shape how we go forward,” McChrystal said. But, as his spokesman has said earlier, it’s not a matter of taking a sort of plebiscite to determine that local buy-in. “We’re really talking about engagement over time,” McChrystal said. “It’s not going to tribes to say, ‘Do you approve of all the following.’ It’s inclusive. They participate over time and continue to shape it.”

A big lesson of Operation Moshtarek in Marja — where the governance efforts critical to the operation have far lagged behind security operations — is to involve President Karzai in the process, McChrystal said. I’m off to an event with Karzai now to gain his perspective.

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