Afghan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal didn’t give away much on the pending Kandahar offensive in today’s presser at the Pentagon, predicting a “difficult” fight against a “smart” insurgency that constantly probes for openings where it can slip fighters into villages and towns and intimidate the local population through assassinations and “night letters” under the noses of U.S., NATO and Afghan troops.
Special operations units are targeting insurgent networks and leaders in Kandahar, he said, prepping the terrain for the coming offensive. But he cautioned against expecting a D-Day like offensive. That’s not how wars amongst the people are fought, he said, channeling a bit of the Rupert Smith; fighting a war in the middle of somebody’s home isn’t easy.
He plans a gradual “rising tide” of security that will, over time, convince the local people to side with the Afghan central government against the Taliban. “They have to see it to believe it, but they can’t just see it once, they have to see it until they believe it’s durable.” The people remain to be convinced, he said.
“A counterinsurgency effort is long term, it’s a process, it’s not an event.” He described a classic counterinsurgency ink-blot strategy: “The intent is to create security bubbles or security zones that expand until they’re contiguous.” He said the change in security in the Helmand river valley since the American led offensives there has been nothing short of “dramatic.”
While Kandahar has a heavy insurgent presence, it was safe enough that he and Gen. David Petraeus took a stroll through the streets buying bread the other day, he said.
— Greg Grant