WASHINGTON — The U.S. general put in charge of turning around the war in Afghanistan is likely to recommend significant changes in the campaign and may include a request for more U.S. forces that the White House is expected to resist.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal's long-awaited reassessment of the war against Taliban insurgents aims for a transformation of the shaky relationship between U.S. forces and Afghan civilians as troops press a counterinsurgency strategy of clearing and holding populated areas, said officials apprised of the report's contents.
The latest draft urges speeding up the training of Afghan soldiers and police and nearly doubling their numbers to 400,000, said a senior defense official in Washington, one of several uniformed and civilian officials who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the report has not been made public.
As McChrystal readies the assessment of the war, due in two weeks, numerous U.S. officials and outsiders aware of his thinking suggest that he will request in a companion report that more American troops be added next year.
Several people familiar with the work being done cautioned that he could opt not to ask for an increase at all — a recognition that President Barack Obama and other White House advisers would not look favorably on adding new numbers to U.S. forces after already agreeing to boost their ranks by 21,000 troops this year. Current forces include 62,000 U.S. troops and 39,000 allied troops, plus about 175,000 Afghan Army and police.
The main recommendations for change stem from the military's new counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, which is now designed to focus less on going after Taliban strongholds and more on protecting the local population and gaining its support.
To achieve that, one official said, McChrystal's assessment on the war includes the following recommendations:
• Using intelligence less to hunt insurgents and more to understand local power structures in the areas where they operate. McChrystal is considering concentrating troops around populated areas rather than going into sparsely populated areas where the Taliban hides.
• Getting troops more active in fighting corruption by local Afghan leaders.