WASHINGTON (Oct. 1) – The top American military commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday that he needs more troops and other aid “as quickly as possible” in a counter-insurgency battle that could get worse before it gets better.
Gen. David McKiernan said it’s not just a question of troops — but more economic aid and more political aid as well.
Speaking to Pentagon reporters, the head of NATO forces in Afghanistan said there has been a significant increase in foreign fighters coming in from neighboring Pakistan this year — including Chechens, Uzbeks, Saudis and Europeans.
“The additional military capabilities that have been asked for are needed as quickly as possible,” he said.
He said he was encouraged by recent Pakistani military operations against insurgents waging cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, but also said that it is too soon to tell how effective they have been.
Officials have said that violence in Afghanistan is up about 30 percent this year compared with 2007. The Taliban and associated militant groups like the terrorist network al-Qaida have steadily stepped up attacks in the last several years and more U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan already this year than in any year since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
“We’re in a very tough fight,” McKiernan said. “The idea that it might get worse before it gets better is certainly a possibility.”
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last week that he may be able to send thousands more combat troops to Afghanistan starting next spring.
McKiernan was scheduled to meet with President Bush at the White House late Wednesday.