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McChrystal confident on new Afghan strategy

Mark Mardell | 16:25 UK time, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

"I believe absolutely we will be successful."

Four silver stars on his shoulder, a Technicolor square of medal ribbons on his chest, America's top general in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal declared he'd win. Beating the Taliban, he told the politicians, was a bit like defeating a political opponent: it didn't mean they had to be destroyed to the last man but were rendered incapable of accomplishing their mission.

He's up on Capitol Hill giving evidence about the new strategy, paying tribute to his "extraordinary" troops, who, he said, were "even better than we think they are".

For the last few months, before the president's announcement, it has become accepted Washington wisdom that the general wanted 40,000 troops, not the 30,000 he eventually got. Asked about that, he said that his actual report was still classified but that he had been provided with the resources that he needed and he was very comfortable with the outcome.

Asked directly if he had asked for 30,000 troops, he said that his recommendation had not been phrased that way but in terms of how quickly the forces could be deployed.

The next 18 months would be crucial, he said. His original report, written some months ago, says the same thing, but he said the last six months had been "used at full throttle".

He said that by the end of the period, it would be "unequivocally clear" to the Afghan people how much progress had been made, but "I don't view July 2011 as a deadline", the president had set it as a point to begin withdrawal, he said, adding "we will decide the pace and scope of that process".

But are Nato forces capable of running a counter-insurgency strategy?

"It will be unfinished business forever", said McChrystal, with the look of someone who has said something rather clever.

I'll add more if anything more of interest comes out.


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