News24

Petraeus may tweak war strategy

2010-07-05 22:25

Kabul - US Senator John McCain said on Monday that incoming commander General David Petraeus could tweak strategy in the nearly nine-year war in Afghanistan, following two days of talks and battlefield tours.

The former US presidential candidate said the new commander of US and Nato forces indicated there could be adjustments to a war plan seen by many analysts as bogged down to the Taliban's advantage.

"General Petraeus is reviewing the entire rules of engagement and probably there will be some tweaking. We got that impression from him," McCain told reporters in a press conference at a Kabul airport.

Petraeus arrived in Kabul on Friday to take over Nato's 47-nation International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from US General Stanley McChrystal, sacked last month by President Barack Obama for insubordination.

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

But the veteran Republican senator said he believed the counter-insurgency would succeed following the deployment of thousands more troops to the Taliban heartland of Kandahar.

"The counter-insurgency is just beginning to succeed. We do have the right strategy in Kandahar. Kandahar is the key to a successful strategy, but I believe it is just beginning," McCain said.

"There will be more difficult times, and in the short term casualties will go up," he added.

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.

McCain visited Afghanistan with fellow Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, who all sit on the influential US Armed Services Committee.

The lawmakers said they discussed Kandahar, corruption and governance issues with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over dinner.

They also used the press conference to reiterate criticism of the July 2011 target to begin pulling US troops out of Afghanistan, saying that setting a firm date for withdrawal would raise questions about US commitment.