Kabul: US General Stanley McChrystal radically altered the rules of war in Afghanistan but, sacked after a year, the success or failure of his counter-insurgency master plan will fall to David Petraeus.
The brilliant former special operations chief was appointed commander last June of what has become America`s longest war when his predecessor was pushed out for being unable to stem an unravelling war in the "graveyard of empires".
Hand picked for his ability to develop counter-insurgency warfare to the battlefield, McChrystal devised a strategy to pour tens of thousands of extra troops into Afghanistan, win over civilians and train local forces.
A British think-tank said yesterday that British operations in the southern province of Helmand were showing signs of progress, partly due to McChrystal.
But as the Royal United Services Institute study pointed out, successes contrast with the difficulties experienced in the Marjah area of Helmand, where McChrystal`s first decisive operation is still struggling to build local trust and establish governance.
McChrystal himself admitted that the flagship campaign aimed at pushing the Taliban from its southern heartland of Kandahar was going slower than expected, owing to a lack of Afghan forces and difficulties of winning support.
While expected, spiralling NATO casualties that put June on track as the deadliest month for Western troops in Afghanistan, have further dented public support for the nine-year war.
"Since McChrystal arrived, the fighting has escalated. The government has very little control over Kandahar – there are few places that the government has control," said Abdul Khalil, a retired government official in the city.
Critics questioned McChrystal`s calls for large numbers of troops to live among the population and avoid heavy weaponry in the fight, wondering whether they can help rebuild infrastructure and nurture support for the government.
The strategy has been hampered by a lack of government partners in remote areas, rookie Afghan police and Army infighting, wary tribal elders refusing to cooperate as well as money skimmed from development projects.
Concern about Karzai`s government, corruption, his troubled relationship with Washington, what some call his erratic behaviour and differences of opinion on how to reach a political solution with the Taliban are also major challenges.
In the final analysis, Stephen Biddle, fellow for defence policy at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, said it is too soon to tell how well McChrystal had done his job.