Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Troops Have the Initiative -- It's Defeatism at Home That Could Cost Us Victory

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Troops Have the Initiative -- It's Defeatism at Home That Could Cost Us Victory

Article excerpt

Byline: Robert Fox COMMENTARY

THE death of the 100th British soldier in action in Helmand this year is both sad and symbolic. It indicates just how tough the fighting has been across southern Afghanistan and, as the McChrystal strategy is being implemented, we must brace ourselves for news of more British casualties in the coming months.

But this grim milestone should not in itself alter the plan of campaign now unfolding. General Stanley McChrystal says he now has sufficient force numbers to start seizing the initiative against the Taliban in strategic ground, principally central Helmand and Kandahar and its surrounding farmlands.

The campaign in southern Afghanistan is now at a decisive point, military jargon for a tipping point. This year America will have ordered in 50,000 of its troops as reinforcements. Centres like Lashkar Gah, Garmsir and Gereshk are more secure and business is thriving in the bazaars. Among the international and Afghan national forces there is sense of real momentum now. Special Forces have upped the tempo of their operations five-fold in the past five months and there are signs that local Taliban bands are fracturing.

Not that you would get much of an idea of this from the media in London and, I suspect, in Washington. The media seems cloaked in a cloud of defeatism, often encouraged by wilful ignorance or misinterpretation of the facts on the ground.

No sooner had President Barack Obama announced the dispatch of more troops than it was being questioned -- often by some who should know better, like the former Army chief Sir Richard Dannatt.

First the critics questioned whether Gen McChrystal really does have enough forces to carry out his plan, even though he has said so. Then the apparent setting of a deadline for US troops' withdrawal in mid-2011 was cast as an own goal by critics, who saw it as an invitation to the Taliban to lay low for a couple of years and regroup when the foreign armies have left. …

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