General Complains About U.S. Bureaucracy

Monday, 28 Sep 2009 07:59 AM

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The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan bitterly complained in an interview about the Pentagon bureaucracy that he said was hampering his efforts to fight insurgents.

In a profile on CBS television's "60 minutes," General Stanley McChrystal said he faced pressure to move quickly from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, although the Pentagon had moved slowly to get officers assigned to his staff.

"The secretary talks in terms of 12 to 18 months to show a significant change, and then we eat up two or three months just on sort of getting the tools out of the tool box," McChrystal said, according to a transcript of the show.

"That really hurts," said McChrystal, shown in a video conference with the Pentagon.

The four-star army general, who was appointed to lead U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan in June after the previous commander was sacked, demanded that the Defense Department move with greater urgency.

"The average organization, when someone asks when you want something, they pull out a calendar," he said.

"But in a good organization, they look at their watch and we really got to get that way."

McChrystal was slightly surprised at the strength of the insurgency when he took over his post, saying that conditions in Afghanistan are "probably a little worse" than he anticipated when taking the job.

"I think that, in some areas that the breadth of violence, the geographic spread of violence — places to the north and to the west — are a little more than I would have gathered," he said.

He also repeated his warning that if the NATO-led mission was perceived as an occupation that poses a threat to civilians, the war would be lost.

"If the people view us as occupiers and the enemy, we can't be successful and our casualties will go up dramatically," he said.

U.S. or allied forces killed 265 civilians during the past 12 months McChrystal said, adding that civilian casualties could make or break his strategy.

"I knew this was an important issue, but since I've been here the last two and a half months, this civilian casualty issue is much more important than I even realized," he said. "It is literally how we lose the war or in many ways how we win it.

"We could do good things in Afghanistan for the next 100 years and fail, because we're doing a lot of good things and it just doesn't add up to success."

In a quarterly report released Saturday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said 1,500 civilians had died between January and August, with August the deadliest month so far this year.

Military officials have credited McChrystal with reducing civilian casualties in recent months by ordering a change in tactics, including scaling back the use of air strikes and artillery fire, as well as requiring soldiers to exercise more caution when driving on Afghan roads.

--AFP

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