A top military expert is predicting that the fighting in Afghanistan will be even deadlier a year from now, just when President Obama's promise to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan comes due.
"This war is not going to be over next summer," military journalist, author, and former Special Operations soldier Michael Yon tells Newsmax. "I'll guarantee you, mark my words, 2011 will be far more bloody than 2010 was.
"So it's going to be intense next year, that's clear as the writing is on the wall. So [Obama] is going to have to stay tough and pour on the pressure," Yon says.
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During an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Yon says ousted U.S. commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal demonstrated a "pattern of incompetence," and damaged the morale of U.S. forces in Afghanistan — even before his blunt remarks in the recent Rolling Stone magazine article that led to his ouster.
Yon suggests McChrystal's background in special forces left him ill-prepared to manage the war in Afghanistan.
"You could see from the ground in Afghanistan an incompetence from command that I've never seen before," Yon tells Newsmax. "I didn't see it in Iraq, and I didn't see it in Afghanistan before. The troops see it as well."
Yon says he is excited that Gen. David Petraeus is taking over. The author of "Danger Close" and "Moment of Truth in Iraq" says he was "starting to lose hope that we could win the war."
The fighting in Afghanistan has grown increasingly bloody in recent weeks, and the number of U.S. soldiers who have died in the conflict recently exceeded 1,000.
But Yon states he "absolutely" believes that the appointment of Petraeus, who directed former President Bush's successful surge in Iraq, may represent a turning point in the war.
Yon says he has never seen U.S. troop morale drop the way it has lately in Afghanistan. He reports soldiers are frustrated with strict rules that dictate how much force they can use to protect themselves — part of the counterinsurgency strategy Obama is using to try to win the hearts and minds of the Afghanistan people. He says that is costing American lives.
To win, President Obama must reconsider the timeline he has set that calls for troop withdrawals to begin in July 2011.
"It's clear that he's going to need to review that, and he's going to need to do it quickly, especially now that he's got Petraeus in there," the military expert says. "In fact, if he kept McChrystal in, I was starting to lean in my own mind towards advocating that we pull out, because I just didn't think McChrystal could handle the war. But with Petraeus coming in I do believe that the president needs to reexamine his ideas about how long it is going to take."
Yon believes American forces can beat back their enemies to the point that some of them will negotiate for peace.
"Only in the last couple of hours since [President Obama] put Petraeus in charge … I really think there is a serious glimmer of hope at this point," Yon tells Newsmax.TV.
Yon also tells Newsmax he has exchanged e-mails with Petraeus regarding the impact the restrictive rules of engagement are having on U.S. soldiers and is preparing a more detailed message to the general on that topic.
"I know a lot of other people are going to tell him. That's the first thing that needs to be reexamined," says Yon.
Yon also raised what would be a harrowing prospect politically: The possibility that Petraeus might ask President Obama for yet more troops to prosecute the war.
"If he does," Yon tells Newsmax, "the president would be well advised to take that very seriously."
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