[Updated at 3:07 p.m.] Earlier today, President Barack Obama accepted the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal "with considerable regret" and nominated Gen. David Petraeus, the head of the U.S. Central Command.
Here's some early reaction to Obama's decision:
“I thought Obama's talk was rhetorically perfect, hitting all the right notes in explaining why McChrystal had to go, while paying tribute to McChrystal's service. The only big question he left hanging in just what happens to Central Command. Will Petraeus try to have both commands? Will someone else take over? With Pakistan, Iran and other Middle Eastern issues bubbling out there, this is a question that needs to be addressed ASAP.” (Thomas Ricks, Foreign Policy)
Despite the offensive aimed at rooting out the Taliban in the Afghan city of Marjah earlier this year, militants there continue to “plant bombs and intimidate civilians,” report Tony Perry and Laura King of the Los Angeles Times.
“Security for Afghan villagers remains precarious in the Marjah district of Helmand province, where U.S. Marines and Afghan soldiers mounted a massive assault in February to oust the Taliban from control, according to the Marine general who led the assault,” they write.
“Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson said late Sunday that while there are hopeful signs in Marja, with Afghan police patrolling and farmers signing up to grow crops other than opium poppy, the mission's success or failure may not be known for months.”
Greg Miller of the Washington Post reports that Pakistan has released at least two recently captured Taliban militants.
“U.S. officials now believe that even as Pakistan's security forces worked with their American counterparts to detain Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and other insurgents, the country's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI, quietly freed at least two senior Afghan Taliban figures it had captured on its own,” Miller writes.
“U.S. military and intelligence officials said the releases, detected by American spy agencies but not publicly disclosed, are evidence that parts of Pakistan's security establishment continue to support the Afghan Taliban.”
The unrest in Kyrgyzstan could complicate U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, according to some reports Wednesday.
“The instability highlights both Kyrgyzstan's vital role for the U.S. war in Afghanistan and the compromises both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have made to deal with an increasingly unsavory regime,” writes Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor.
Deirdre Tynan and Kadyr Toktogulov of the Wall Street Journal write: “The U.S. military base outside the Kyrgyz capital is vital to the expanding American war effort in Afghanistan. Most of the U.S. troops deploying to Afghanistan first pass through Manas, which also handles the majority of the American fuel, food and ammunition shipments to the war zone.
“Last month alone, more than 50,000 U.S. and coalition troops passed through Manas en route to Afghanistan, according to military officials at the base. More than 200,000 troops have deployed to Afghanistan through Manas since last October.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday about remarks he had made blaming election fraud in his country on the international community, according to CNN’s Elise Labott and Jill Dougherty.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Karzai called Clinton after meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry.
Karzai and Clinton talked for 25 minutes, according to State Department officials.
The United States was seeking clarification about comments Karzai made Thursday blaming the international community for widespread fraud in last year's election, which kept him in office.
Two State Department officials - who are not authorized to speak on the record but who had knowledge of the phone call - said the tone was "very constructive" and that the United States found it "useful" for Karzai to reach out to Clinton.
The Canadian media has reports on a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – who’s in Quebec for a meeting of G8 foreign ministers - and her comments on Tuesday that the U.S. would like Canada to extend their mission in Afghanistan.
"It's up to Canada to decide how you deploy your forces," Clinton told the CBC’s “The Hour.”
"But I'm not going to sit here and tell you we're happy about it because … that wouldn't be telling you the truth. We'd love to have Canada stay in this fight with us. But again, you know, you've got your own considerations and we respect that."
The Globe and Mail reports Clinton “stoked a political fire under the issue of Canada's planned 2011 withdrawal from Afghanistan when the Secretary of State told a national TV audience that the U.S. would like Canadian troops to extend their stay in the war-torn country.”
The next major battle in Afghanistan is expected to take place in Kandahar, and Yaroslav Trofimov of the Wall Street Journal reports that it might “look completely different from Marjah, where thousands of U.S. Marines fought their way into rural areas under total Taliban control.”
Trofimov writes: “No combat is needed for coalition or Afghan troops to enter Kandahar city, the Taliban movement's birthplace. Unlike Marjah, this metropolis of one million people has remained under government authority, albeit an increasingly tenuous one, since the Taliban regime's downfall in 2001. U.S. and Canadian patrols rumble through the city every day; a huge coalition base sits in its outskirts.
The Afghan government here, however, has been so weak, predatory and corrupt that more and more Kandaharis have come to view the Taliban as a lesser evil. Changing this perception holds the key to victory in the city—and to the success of the surge, coalition officials say.”
“A spokesman for the delegation, Mohammad Daoud Abedi, said the Taliban, which makes up the bulk of the insurgency, would be willing to go along with the plan if a date was set for the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country. Publicly, a Taliban spokesman denied that.
The plan, titled the National Rescue Agreement, a copy of which was given to The New York Times, sets that date as July 2010, with the withdrawal to be completed within six months.”
A meeting between Pakistani and American officials on Wednesday could “help redefine one of America's thorniest foreign-policy relationships,” report the Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Rosenberg and Peter Spiegel. They write:
“Pakistan sent a 56-page document to the U.S. ahead of strategic talks scheduled for Wednesday, seeking expanded military and economic aid in what some American officials believe is an implicit offer to crack down in return on the Afghan Taliban.
The previously undisclosed document includes requests ranging from U.S. help to alleviate Pakistan's chronic water and power shortages to pleas for surveillance aircraft and support in developing the country's civilian nuclear program.
U.S. officials say the document and the talks surrounding it could help redefine one of America's thorniest foreign-policy relationships, if it leads to a serious Pakistani clampdown on the Taliban.”
The U.S. has spent billions in Afghanistan to build up its police force but has little to show for it, report Mark Hosenball and Ron Moreau of Newsweek, and T. Christian Miller of ProPublica.
“America has spent more than $6 billion since 2002 in an effort to create an effective Afghan police force, buying weapons, building police academies, and hiring defense contractors to train the recruits—but the program has been a disaster,” they write.