Afghan War: Pentagon hopes to shift from counter-insurgency to counter-terrorism

Washington, Dec. 17 (ANI): The Pentagon and key White House officials, it seems, are making a subtle movement away from counter-insurgency towards a more cost-effective, and less troop-intensive, strategy.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the assessment of the US military's work this year, prepared by the National Security Council with considerable Pentagon input, finds "notable operational gains" since thousands of US troops were surged into the country under President Obama's orders.

As expected, it paints a rosier picture than does the National Intelligence Estimate, the summary of progress put forward by 16 US intelligence agencies and released to some members of Congress last week.

Though The White House report concludes that the current US strategy in Afghanistan "is setting the conditions to begin the responsible reduction of US forces in 2011," but behind the scenes, support is growing among senior Pentagon leadership for a considerable shift in US strategy.

It would be a shift based, supporters say, on harsh cost realities and a war that, in the words of the go-to think tank for the Obama administration, remains "a wicked problem" in which "all outcomes are likely to be sub-optimal for the United States, its allies, and the Afghan people" despite the "yeoman efforts of the last nine years."

Throughout that time, US soldiers have become earnest students of counter-insurgency warfare.

It is the strategy and a belief, championed by Gen. David Petraeus, that the key to winning in America's current wars is earning the trust and support of the people through good security and strong government programs.

In emphasizing building up the state and protecting citizens, counter-insurgency advocates tend to de-emphasize insurgent death tolls as a measure of success.

The problem, critics say, is that counter-insurgency requires a lot of soldiers. It is also expensive - no small consideration during an economic slump and a war that by next year will have cost the United States at least 250 billion dollars.qually important, counter-insurgency requires a strong partner government - one that senior military officials concede is currently lacking in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, senior Pentagon officials and some of the top advisers to the US military's war effort have been warning, too, that in a vast and poor country like Afghanistan in which there seems to be little support for a strong central government after nearly a decade, America's strategy focused on building it up may be misplaced.

The shift advocated by some senior military officials would involve moving away from counter-insurgency and toward a strategy of counter-terrorism - the Pentagon's shorthand for the more conventional approach of aggressively pursuing and killing insurgents, generally with small teams of special operations forces.

It is a plan that has long been pushed by Vice President Joe Biden - and dismissed during the first White House strategy review by some senior military officials loyal to Petraeus, commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

One indicator that the Pentagon is thinking seriously about pursuing counter-terrorism over counter-insurgency came in little-publicized remarks last week from Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the No. 2 military officer.

"When we started, we probably were more aligned with counter-insurgency. The emphasis is shifting," he said in a speech at the National Press Club on Dec. 8.

He added: "The balance of the force that was really weighted more toward counter-insurgency is starting to shift to have an element of counter-terrorism larger than we thought we were going to need when we started."

This view was seconded by what many regard as an unlikely source a think tank, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), known within the US military as a center of counter-insurgency study. It also has the ear of top defense officials. (ANI)

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