Washington: The US began the war in
Afghanistan with a "frighteningly simplistic" view of the country and even 10 years later lacks knowledge that could help bring the conflict to a successful end, a former top
commander has said.
Retired Army Gen Stanley McChrystal said in remarks at
the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday that the US and its
NATO allies are only "a little better than" 50 per cent of the
way to reaching their war goals.
Of the remaining tasks to be accomplished, he said the
most difficult may be to create a legitimate government that ordinary Afghans can believe in and that can serve as a counterweight to the Taliban.
McChrystal, who commanded coalition forces in 2009-10
and was forced to resign in a flap over a magazine article,
said the US entered Afghanistan in October 2001 with too
little knowledge of Afghan culture.
"We didn't know enough and we still don't know enough,"
he said. "Most of us, me included, had a very superficial
understanding of the situation and history, and we had a
frighteningly simplistic view of recent history, the last 50
US forces did not know the country's languages and did
not make "an effective effort" to learn them, he said.
McChrystal also said that the Bush administration's decision
to invade Iraq less than two years after entering Afghanistan
made the Afghan effort more difficult.
"I think they were made more difficult, clearly," he
said because the Iraq invasion "changed the Muslim world's
view of America's effort. When we went after the Taliban in
Afghanistan in 2001, there was a certain understanding that we
had the ability and the right to defend ourselves and the fact
that al-Qaida had been harbored by the Taliban was legitimate.
I think when we made the decision to go into Iraq that was
less legitimate" in the eyes of much of the Muslim world.
Iraq also diverted some military resources that could have
been put to good use in Afghanistan, he said.
First Published: Friday, October 07, 2011, 09:27