Washington /Kabul: The Pentagon has told its top commander in Afghanistan to delay submitting his request for additional troops until the Obama administration completes a review of its strategy, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Army general Stanley McChrystal, the top commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, warned in a confidential assessment leaked to the media on Monday that without the additional troops the mission “will likely result in failure”.
A senior Pentagon official said the administration had asked for the reprieve so it can complete a review of the US-led war effort, the newspaper reported.
“We have to make sure we have the right strategy” before looking at additional troop requests .... “Things have changed on the ground fairly considerably,” the official told the newspaper.
There are already more than 100,000 foreign soldiers in Afghanistan, battling an insurgency which has taken control of many parts of the south and east of the country in what has so far been the deadliest year for foreign troops since 2001.
The Times of London said on Tuesday that Britain planned to send an extra 1,000 troops to Afghanistan in response to McChrystal’s call for reinforcements from Nato-contributors.
The leaking of McChrystal’s military report piles more pressure on US president Barack Obama, already squeezed by ebbing public support and scepticism in his own party over troop levels.
Obama has said in interviews over the past week that he will consider deploying more troops after a proper US strategy for Afghanistan has been determined.
Asked about the Wall Street Journal report, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the hope was that the matter would be resolved soon.
“As Secretary (Robert) Gates said last week, he and others are still working through the process by which General McChrystal will submit his resource request for review,” Morrell said.
The request, which some officials expected would include roughly 30,000 new combat troops and trainers, is expected to be submitted to Washington in the coming weeks.
“It is important to remember that regardless of when General McChrystal sends forth his request, the president first wants to fully discuss his assessment of the situation in Afghanistan and the strategy we are pursuing there before considering any additional resources for that effort,” Morrell said.
More British troops
European allies under Nato command whose governments support the war in Afghanistan, often over public opposition, have begun openly wavering. Both Italy and Germany have come under mounting pressure to review their involvement.
The British ministry of defence is planning to send an extra 1,000 troops to Afghanistan, according to the London-based Times newspaper, in response to McChrystal’s grim assessment, boosting British soldier numbers to 10,000.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown had yet to make a formal proposal for the additional troops, but it was part of a “choreographed plan” between Britain’s defence ministry and the Pentagon, the report said.
Britain has faced a dramatic spike in military casualties this year, most in the restive southern province of Helmand, and the reported troop increase is likely to be unpopular with the public.