The Wall Street Journal’s write up of its interview
with the new US commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal, demonstrates why more troops are needed in Afghanistan. The Journal concentrates on the suspicion among some in military circles that the Taliban are using the American emphasis on Helmand to strengthen their grip on Kandahar, the capital of the South and the Taliban’s traditional stronghold. The paper reports that the Taliban are setting up shadow government and court system there. However, McChrystal can’t move troops there until the planned reinforcements arrive as those deployed in Helmand ‘have already set up forward operating bases and recruited help from local tribal leaders, who have been promised American backing.’
Until you have sufficient troops on the ground, you are going to be playing whack-a-mole with the Taliban: as soon as you push them in one place, they pop up someone else. If, as widely expected, McChrystal asks for another 10,000 troops, the Obama administration should agree to this request--the commander on the ground is best placed to know how many men he needs to succeed. As Lindsey Graham said on Sunday, there’s no point in the new administration repeating in Afghanistan, Rumsfeld’s Iraq mistakes.