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Dutch Commander Says More Troops Needed in South

The top commander for 30,000 U.S. and international troops in southern Afghanistan said today that he still needs more coalition forces to provide security in the south, but that his priority is to gain more Afghan security forces.

Royal Netherlands Army Maj. Gen. Mart de Kruif said that the next phase of the counterinsurgency campaign here will focus on extending security throughout Taliban areas of central Helmand province as well as the city of Kandahar. Those missions are labor intensive and require more "boots on the ground," he said in an interview.

De Kruif said plans were underway to keep the Afghan forces that are currently in the south and bring in reinforcements of both Army and police in "a couple of months." He said he could not provide more details.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is conducting a broad strategy review that will include an assessment of foreign troop levels.

Senior Obama administration officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have made it clear that they are reluctant to send more large troop contingents to Afghanistan. "I do become concerned at some point that … the foreign military footprint gets too big," Gates reiterated last week. Still, Gates said he has told McChrystal and his boss, Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, "that they can ask for whatever they genuinely feel they need."

De Kruif said that his recommendation to McChrystal would be for "more coalition forces, but my priority would be more ANSF [Afghan national security forces]," he said during a visit to the U.S. Marine base in Garmsir.

Military offensives this month in Helmand province have taken the initiative from the Taliban, de Kruif said, but coalition forces must now turn to uprooting networks of insurgents whose bombs are obstructing roads. "We still need to deny insurgents the only viable weapon they have," he said.

Current military operations will focus on establishing an enduring presence in and around population centers and interdicting Taliban movements through the Helmand River valley and Kandahar vicinity, he said.

By Ann Scott Tyson  |  July 23, 2009; 12:08 PM ET
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Send more troops, it's just that simple. The Obama administration's performance to date is shaping up to be all talk and no action. At some point, pragmatism slides into cynicism, with tough decisions (or even plain speaking) being put off until the political pressure in one direction or another determines a course of action. Does the President actually have a vision for our engagement in Afghanistan or for that matter, for the eventual shape of our foreign and national security policy? Not that I can see. It's a lot of "wait until there's enough pressure built up and then that's the way we'll go. I guess when there are enough voices screaming out for more troops, Obama and Gates will respond.

Posted by: Bob22003 | July 23, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

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