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Marjah A "Bleeding Ulcer": McChrystal

Posted by Newshoggers.com on May 25th, 2010

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Steve Hynd

When McChrystal was bulldozing his surge through the White House, some people – notably Karl Eikenberry – forecast it would be a disaster. Eikenberry is looking increasingly prescient:

a tour last week of Marjah and the nearby Nad Ali district, during which McClatchy had rare access to meetings between McChrystal and top Western strategists, drove home the hard fact that President Barack Obama's plan to begin pulling American troops out of Afghanistan in July 2011 is colliding with the realities of the war.

There aren't enough U.S. and Afghan forces to provide the security that's needed to win the loyalty of wary locals. The Taliban have beheaded Afghans who cooperate with foreigners in a creeping intimidation campaign. The Afghan government hasn't dispatched enough local administrators or trained police to establish credible governance, and now the Taliban have begun their anticipated spring offensive.

"This is a bleeding ulcer right now," McChrystal told a group of Afghan officials, international commanders in southern Afghanistan and civilian strategists who are leading the effort to oust the Taliban fighters from Helmand.

"You don't feel it here," he said during a 10-hour front-line strategy review, "but I'll tell you, it's a bleeding ulcer outside."

Throughout the day, McChrystal expressed impatience with the pace of operations, echoing the mounting pressure he's under from his civilian bosses in Washington and Europe to start showing progress.

Progress in Marjah has been slow, however, in part because no one who planned the operation realized how hard it would be to convince residents that they could trust representatives of an Afghan government that had sent them corrupt police and inept leaders before they turned to the Taliban .

McChrystal knows the clock is ticking, telling one officer "We don't have as many days as we'd like."

He wrote the timetable himself, saying he had a 12 month window to turn the 9 year occupation of Afghanistan, which has gotten more deadly every year, into some kind of Kumbaya Moment. He said he could do it if he were given the resources – more troops – and he was given them. If that window closes with matters as bad as before, then he is the one who has to take the blame.

But seriously, is he going to excuse failure by claiming that "no one could have anticipated" that his vaunted "government in a box" was only a container of foam peanuts? Really?

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