In last Friday’s presidential debate, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that “the same strategy” that Gen. David Petraeus implemented in Iraq is “going to have to be employed in Afghanistan.” But McCain’s claim was undercut yesterday when Gen. David D. McKiernan, the new top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, “stated emphatically that no Iraq-style “surge” of forces will end the conflict there“:
Speaking in Washington yesterday, McKiernan described Afghanistan as “a far more complex environment than I ever found in Iraq.” The country’s mountainous terrain, rural population, poverty, illiteracy, 400 major tribal networks and history of civil war all make for unique challenges, he said.
“The word I don’t use for Afghanistan is ‘surge,’ ” McKiernan stressed, saying that what is required is a “sustained commitment” to a counterinsurgency effort that could last many years and would ultimately require a political, not military, solution.
McKiernan also said that he doubts that “another facet of the Iraq strategy” — the U.S. military’s programs to recruit tribes to oppose insurgents — can be duplicated in Afghanistan. “I don’t want the military to be engaging the tribes,” said McKiernan.