The offensive planned for this summer to clear and hold Kandahar city will now be delayed until the fall, Afghan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal tells the Financial Times. The delay will give commanders time to evaluate what went wrong in Marja where a major offensive earlier this year failed to secure the area from Taliban insurgents.
Speaking to reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels today, McChrystal said operations in Kandahar would be "more deliberate" than initially planned: "I think it will take a number of months for this to play out. But I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I think it's more important we get it right than we get it fast."
McChrystal said there must be visible progress in southern Afghanistan by the end of the year, certainly before NATO's annual summit in November. After nine years of war, he acknowledged that patience among Afghans, as well as NATO allies, is wearing very thin.
Assessing operations in the Helmand River Valley, he said the major lesson was that the Afghan governance piece, the "build" component of the "clear, hold and build" strategy, must be more robust.
I thought this comment from McChrystal on the difficulty of counterinsurgency was particularly telling:
"Unlike conventional military operations where you circle a hill on the map and then you take the hill, when you go to protect people, the people have to want you to protect them."
-- Greg Grant