Friday, February 5, 2010

Afghanistan Bottoms Out

Afghanistan could only get so bad before it had to start getting better, and that inflection point is happening now. Afghanistan appears to be softening against improving security and commerce.

During the summer, McChrystal described the security picture as deteriorating as Taliban influence expanded, especially in Pashtun tribal areas of southern Afghanistan.

"I feel differently now," McChrystal said. "I am not prepared to say we have turned the corner. The situation is serious, but we [made] significant progress in setting conditions in 2009 and we will make real progress in 2010."

Key to the progress, he said, is an operation in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province that will begin within days. Officials have taken the unusual step of announcing the planned offensive, centered on the town of Marja.

McChrystal said the offensive would advance a counterinsurgency campaign begun in Helmand last summer to expand the area under government control. Officials have spoken openly about it in part to showcase the involvement of Afghans in its planning, but also to give militants a chance to lay down their weapons or flee. The discussion is also intended to convince Afghans that the situation in their country is improving.

The Army is running what appears to be a successful counter-insurgency program to bring in the ones you can, and root out the ones you can't. I was ready to pull the plug on the whole situation, but it may still be salvageable.

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