March 9th, 2010
09:54 AM ET

McChrystal eyes Kandahar next

Kabul, Afghanistan  - The top U.S. general in Afghanistan vowed that coalition forces "are absolutely going to secure Kandahar," as security efforts expand in the country's south.

"We already are doing a lot of security operations in Kandahar, but it's our intent - under President [Hamid] Karzai - to make an even greater effort there," Gen. Stanley McChrystal told a joint news conference Monday with Mark Sedwill, the NATO senior civilian representative to the country.

The news conference coincided with a visit by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who was also to meet with Karzai.

McChrystal indicated a military operation could begin in the volatile Kandahar province as early as this summer, but both Sedwill and McChrystal cautioned that much political groundwork lay ahead for NATO-led coalition troops before an offensive can begin. Just as in the recent Marjah operation, the goal, they said, is to gain the support of the Afghan people.

"What I think we've learned about operations in Afghanistan ... is if you try to push against the culture, you have huge problems," McChrystal said. "What we're trying to achieve in Kandahar is to do the political groundwork so when it's time to do the military operation, the significant part of the population is pulling us in and supportive so we're not only doing what they want but we're operating in a way that they're comfortable with. That's the key to success here."

McChrystal said the goal "is to demonstrate again that we can operate in a way where we've got strong resolve by the government of Afghanistan, effective performance by the Afghan military and coalition partners, and government partners, so that as we do an operation that shows the people of Kandahar, and the Taliban as well, that operations like this actually result in a better outcome for everyone."

He declined to comment specifically on when the Kandahar offensive will begin, but said "our forces will be significantly increased around there by early summer."

"There won't be a 'D-Day' that is climactic," McChrystal said. "It will be a rising tide of security as it comes."

The push to secure Kandahar from what McChrystal calls a "menacing Taliban presence" is part of a larger counterinsurgency effort in the country's south, started last month in Marjah in southern Helmand province.

Long a bastion of pro-Taliban sentiment and awash with the opium used to fund the insurgency, the Marjah region has been known as the heroin breadbasket of Afghanistan and as a place where the Taliban had set up a shadow government.

The hope now is for the United States to persuade the locals to change their crops from poppies - grown to produce opium for the Taliban's drug trade - and instead grow crops such as wheat, which can help them survive and provide income as well.

Sedwill and McChrystal praised the early stages of the Marjah offensive, with Sedwill calling it a "template for the way we want to take this campaign forward over the next year to 18 months."

McChrystal said that in addition to the strategic importance of the Marjah offensive, the operation was a "demonstration to the Afghan people, to the international community, to the Pakistanis, and very important to the Taliban as well, that things have changed."

Filed under: Operation Moshtarak • Pentagon
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. JT

    3rd Bn 1st Marines we will be out there soon. they are sending in the Varsity..OORAHH

    March 14, 2010 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  2. VOR1

    So here's the plan
    1- Declare victory
    2- Send our troops home
    3- Leave behind an innefective government that can't protect it's own citizens
    4- Have the Taleban re-take the country within one year
    5- Have Al Queda move back into their previous safe haven in Apghanistan
    6- Al Queda can once more plan their terrorist attacks on the west in peace
    7- Have terrorists flying planes into buildings in the US............
    8- Been there ..... Done that...... Never again.....

    Ummm, need a better plan.

    March 11, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dan Lafayette,IN

    I don't know what Daniel or desertwolf are thinking but to rid the world of the Taliban(who harbored and allowed al-Qaeda to train in Afghanistan)and al-Qaeda and any other terrorist group is a good thing! WE MUST NEVER FORGET 9/11! And I bet that every soldier has not forgotten.

    March 11, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Charles

    See, this is exactly the opposite of what we really need. we NEED the climatic D-day style offensive, its sends a clear signal plus will catch them on their butts. This whole build up of security is an Army thing, but its not how Marine operate. Let the Cortps come busting through, then send the Army in right behind em to sit on whoever is left. This is how our forces are suppsoed to operate, but as you can see war is all political and the command cant get done what needs to be done.

    March 11, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bill Monroe USMC

    McChrystal eyes Kandahar next!
    The Taliban is weak and on the run. They know their time is running out. We have the equipment and an overwhelming force in place. It's "SHOWTIME" The Taliban, insurgents, militants or what ever name the chose need to be destroyed.


    March 11, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bob

    its funny that we have seen more progress in the afganistan war in the past year with obama in office than we have seen with bush in office in the past 8 years..........anyone that opposes the war in afganistan needs to realize the importance of the war, and how much progress we have made since obama has been in office....if we surrender and go home, not only will we have even MORE people hate the USA, but they will also know our weakness (all you have to do is kill 1,000 troops and we'll give up)
    if we give up on afganistan, we are playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded clip....

    March 11, 2010 at 5:21 am | Report abuse |
  7. desertwolf

    Hopefully we have sense enough to realize the whole thing was just a bad idea, declare victory and go home before we sink deeper into this worthless mud hole and let more of our young men get murdered for nothing (or come back as psycho cases and kill people here).

    March 10, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Daniel

    As I remember back in the 1980's,the people in the news media never ceased to lamblast the Russians while they were in Afghanistan,attributing many atroities to them.True,the Russians should never have gotten involved there as that was the biggest mistake they ever made.But just how true were these atrocities?I guess we'll never know.And the Russians really had no business there,either.

    March 10, 2010 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
  9. r mcnertny

    The taliban who left marjah ahead of the "battle" are probably waitihg in khandahar

    March 10, 2010 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |