Petraeus facing uphill battle

2010-07-03 12:52
Kabul - US General David Petraeus made his public debut on Saturday as commander of the Afghan war, celebrating US Independence Day in one of the most heavily guarded places in the country.

The four-star general, who arrived in the Afghan capital on Friday, faces a tough task to bring peace and secure a face-saving exit for allied troops fighting the Taliban, observers say.

Replacing the sacked US General Stanley McChrystal, Petraeus has said the war in Afghanistan - now well into its ninth year - is likely to get tougher before significant improvements are seen.

He arrives as deaths of US and Nato soldiers are touching record highs in intensified fighting, along with questions about the wisdom of committing such huge resources in manpower and money to what could yet be a lost cause.

The general wore military fatigues as he stood with the US ambassador to receive some 1 700 US diplomats and guests on the lawn of the sprawling US embassy in Kabul to mark the Fourth of July.

His appointment as commander of the 140 000 US and Nato troops in Afghanistan has been welcomed by local officials, including President Hamid Karzai, who is increasingly seen in the West as a loose cannon.

But analysts urged Petraeus to make immediate adjustments to rapidly turn around a war seen as bogged down to the Taliban's advantage.

"Petraeus must change the fundamental strategy of the war against the Taliban," said parliamentarian Ahmad Behzad.

"A change in the leadership of foreign forces can only be effective if we see more serious steps taken against terrorists," he told AFP.

Tweaks

McChrystal's reputation had suffered from the failure of foreign forces to secure the poppy-growing district of Marjah, in southern Helmand province, in a massive operation launched in February, said political analyst Haroun Mir.

A planned escalation in operations against the Taliban in Kandahar province, the militants' heartland, had been postponed to September, Mir noted, adding: "And we don't know if it will ever go ahead."

Despite assurances from US President Barack Obama, and Petraeus himself, that the change of command does not mean a change in strategy, the general has already hinted some tweaks could be in the air.

Troops have complained that McChrystal's "courageous restraint" rule, aimed at minimising civilian casualties, prevents them from properly defending themselves - thus contributing to the spike in casualties.

A total of 102 foreign soldiers died in June, almost triple the May toll and far outstripping the previous highest monthly figure of 77 in August.

So far in 2010, more than 320 troops have died, compared to 520 for 2009, with a British soldier becoming the latest casualty on Thursday.

Petraeus conceded this week that troops were unhappy with the rules of engagement, which limit air strikes and artillery and mortar fire, but he denied he planned changes.

He told a news conference after meeting Nato ambassadors in Brussels on Thursday: "I have a moral imperative as a commander... to bring all force that is available to bear when our troopers, and by the way our Afghan partners, are in a tough position."

As the architect of the counter-insurgency strategy that helped quell the civil war in Iraq, and which had been largely applied to Afghanistan under McChrystal, Petraeus was "the right man for the job", a military official said.

Intensifying pressure

But he noted that the general's arrival coincides with growing calls for talks with Taliban leaders, a timetable for withdrawal and intensifying pressure on Karzai to build the country's own security capacity as well as cracking down on endemic corruption.

Petraeus's relationship with Karzai would be central to his success, analysts and diplomats said, noting that McChrystal nurtured Karzai as "commander in chief" and improved his ties with Washington.

"Being able to work with an Afghan partner is key to this war," said Kabul University law lecturer Wadir Safi.

"Otherwise, given the present situation, if 10 Petraeuses come and go, nothing is going to change, especially when he plans to start withdrawing in July 2011."

The scale of the task facing the 57-year-old Petraeus and the troops under his command was underlined just hours before he arrived in Afghanistan when Taliban militants stormed a US aid organisation, leaving five people dead.
Read more on:    david petraeus  |  stanley mcchrystal  |  us  |  afghanistan
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

Christmas lingerie to make this festive season the best one ever!
13 things you might not know about Disneyland
The craziest deaths of 2014
How to make this a sensual, sexy summer!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is so much going on around you and inside your head. You may want to take your ideas to the next level. Romance may be...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.