Report: More troops needed for Afghan war success

A soldier from the U.S. Army's 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne), based at Fort Richardson, …
By ANNE GEARAN, AP National Security Writer Anne Gearan, Ap National Security Writer – 8 mins ago
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama's top commander in Afghanistan has told him that without more troops the United States could lose the war that Obama has described as the nation's foremost military priority.
Obama must now decide whether to commit thousands of additional American forces or try to hold the line against the Taliban with the troops and strategy he has already approved. Obama made clear in television interviews Sunday that he is reassessing whether his narrowed focus on countering the Afghan insurgency is working and will not be rushed into a decision about additional troops.
"Resources will not win this war, but under-resourcing could lose it," Gen. Stanley McChrystal wrote in a five-page summary of the war as he found it upon taking command this summer.
McChrystal's confidential 66-page report, sent to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Aug. 30, is now under review at the White House.
"Although considerable effort and sacrifice have resulted in some progress, many indicators suggest the overall effort is deteriorating," McChrystal said of the war's progress.
Obama approved 21,000 additional U.S. troops earlier this year, on the advice of Gates and other senior defense and military leaders. That will bring the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to a record 68,000 by the end of this year, working alongside 38,000 NATO-led troops.
The question now is whether to divert troops from Iraq or make other adjustments to expand that force significantly early next year. Gates and others have repeatedly warned that too large a force would do more harm than good in a country hostile to anything it sees as foreign meddling. But Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress last week he thinks more troops are probably necessary.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said in a statement that the McChrystal assessment "is a classified, pre-decisional document, intended to provide President Obama and his national security team with the basis for a very important discussion about where we are now in Afghanistan and how best to get to where we want to be."
While asserting that more troops are needed, McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, also pointed out an "urgent need" to significantly revise strategy. The U.S. needs to interact better with the Afghan people, McChrystal said, and better organize its efforts with NATO allies.
"We run the risk of strategic defeat by pursuing tactical wins that cause civilian casualties or unnecessary collateral damage. The insurgents cannot defeat us militarily; but we can defeat ourselves," he wrote.
In his blunt assessment of the tenacious Taliban insurgency, McChrystal warned that unless the U.S. and its allies gain the initiative and reverse the momentum of the militants within the next year the U.S. "risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible."
The content of the report was first reported by The Washington Post, which said it withheld publication of portions of the document at the government's request.
Morrell confirmed the report, but said the Pentagon would not release McChrystal's assessment.
"While we would have much preferred none of this be made public at this time we appreciate the paper's willingness to edit out those passages which would likely have endangered personnel and operations in Afghanistan," Morrell said in an e-mail statement.
The Pentagon and the White House are awaiting a separate, more detailed request for additional troops and resources. Media reports Friday and Saturday said McChrystal has finished it but was told to pocket it, partly because of the charged politics surrounding the decision. McChrystal's senior spokesman, Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, told The Associated Press on Sunday the report is not complete.
On Monday, another Pentagon spokesman said he cannot predict when the request will arrive, and said McChrystal's depiction of the war is one tool the administration will use to choose its path.
"The way forward in Afghanistan ... is more complex than just the security aspect of it," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. "There are political aspects, developmental aspects, economic, a range of things you have to look at."
A spokesman for Afghanistan's Defense Ministry said Sunday the Afghan government would not second-guess international military commanders on the need for more troops, but said that the greatest need is on the other side of the Afghan-Pakistan border, where the insurgency is infiltrating Afghanistan.
In Congress, the war has taken on a highly partisan edge. Senate Republicans are demanding more forces to turn around a war that soon will enter its ninth year, while members of Obama's own Democratic Party are trying to put on the brakes. Obama said in the Sunday interviews that he will not allow politics to govern his decision.
The president said he has not asked McChrystal to sit on his request for U.S. reinforcements.
"No, no, no, no," Obama responded when asked whether he or aides had directed McChrystal to temporarily withhold a request for additional U.S. forces and other resources.
"Are we doing the right thing?" he asked during one of a series of interviews broadcast Sunday. "Are we pursuing the right strategy?"
Obama gave no deadline for making a decision about whether to send more Americans into harm's way.
"The only thing I've said to my folks is, 'A, I want an unvarnished assessment, but, B, I don't want to put the resource question before the strategy question,'" Obama said. "Because there is a natural inclination to say, 'If I get more, then I can do more.' "
Mullen told Congress last week he expected McChrystal's request for additional forces and other resources "in the very near future." The White House has remained vague about how long it would take to receive the report and act on it.
Obama spoke on CNN's "State of the Union," ABC's "This Week," NBC's "Meet the Press," and CBS' "Face the Nation."


2 killed, 1 missing as storms drench Southeast

ATLANTA – At least two people died in floodwaters in Georgia and another was believed drowned in Tennessee as rows of thunderstorms drenched the Southeast, submerging some major highways in the Atlanta area and prompting flood warnings Monday.
Forecasters issued flood alerts for parts of Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Georgia as more rain fell after days of storms that have saturated the ground. As much as 20 inches had fallen in three days in the Atlanta metro area.
Emergency workers in the Atlanta suburb of Lawrenceville found a woman dead in her sunken vehicle after it was swept off a road by flooding Monday, said Capt. Thomas Rutledge of the Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services. He had no further information about the woman.
"In my 22 years in the fire department here in Gwinnett we have not experienced flooding to this degree," Rutledge aid.
Another fatality was reported in Douglas County west of Atlanta after a vehicle was washed off a road into a creek and the adult male driver, whose name wasn't immediately released, was found downstream when the water receded, said county spokesman Wes Tallon.
In Chattanooga, Tenn., rescuers found two men clinging a chain-link fence in rushing water late Sunday. One was saved but the other, said to be in his mid-30s, is presumed lost, said Chattanooga Fire Department spokesman Bruce Garner.
A neighbor tried to rescue the man by throwing a garden hose to him, but as he reached for the hose, the powerful current pulled him into a flooded culvert. The man's identity was being withheld until relatives could be notified.
The rolling storms shut down school systems in five north Georgia counties. Water also flooded homes, washed out some roads and left standing pools on some busy metro Atlanta highways.
Flash flood watches were issued Monday for much of Alabama. School officials in Bibb County, about 50 miles southwest of Birmingham, called off classes for fear their 3,600 students wouldn't be able to get home later Monday.
Lisa Janak of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency says the rains caused a mudslide that blocked part of Stone Mountain Freeway east of Atlanta. She urged residents to stay home if they don't have to drive.
Trisha Palmer of the National Weather Service says that as much as 20 inches of rain has fallen on the metro Atlanta area since Friday. She said parts of Douglas and Carroll counties have received more than a foot of rain in the last day alone. As of 8 a.m. Monday, Chattanooga had received 4.93 inches of rain in 24 hours.


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