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'One year to save Afghan mission'

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 21 September 2009

As Italy buries six of her war dead, General Stanley McChrystal, President Obama's top general in Afghanistan, warns that the mission to that country could end in failure.

US general Stanley McChrystal (Reuters)

General McChrystal says in a leaked and candid document to the president that there is less than twelve months in which to turn the war around and that he needs still more troops to do it.

The general says the failings and corruption of the Afghan government are as grave a threat as what he calls the muscular and sophisticated forces of the enemy.

General McChrystal goes on to say that the wholesale corruption inside the Afghan government is as grave a threat to the war's resolution as the Taliban.

The new Nato commander in Afghanistan has called for more international forces to be deployed.

In the memo to the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, the general says that failure to provide adequate military resources would risk a longer conflict, more casualties, higher overall costs and a loss of political support.

He adds bluntly that "any of these risks, in turn, are likely to result in mission failure".

In a confidential 66-page document, leaked on the Washington Post, General McChrystal warns that he needs a "jump" in both military and civilian resources to defeat the terrorist insurgency.

However he says that increased military strength alone would not defeat the Taliban, and both American and other countries needed to reassess their strategy to the war.

The focus needs to move from simply engaging and destroying the Taliban to ensuring the Afghanistan population feels safe and secure and gaining their support.

He writes -

"Additional resources are required, but focusing on force or resource requirements misses the point entirely. The key take away from this assessment is the urgent need for a significant change to our strategy and the way that we think and operate."

He also claims that the perception that western forces have an "uncertain resolve" makes the Afghan population less likely to back them in their fight against the Taliban.

"We face not only a resilient and growing insurgency; there is also a crisis of confidence among Afghans - in both their government and the international community - that undermines our credibility and emboldens the insurgents."

He also says the Afghanistan army and police force both need to be dramatically increased in size, to almost double their projected targets.

The Afghan army needs to be estimated 240,000 soldiers strong. Currently it has 92,000 soldiers with a target of 134,000. Likewise the police force needs to grown from 84,000 to 160,000.

Meanwhile, General Sir Michael Jackson spoke to Channel 4 News about his view of the Afghanistan mission.

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