Afghan war falters, general says

July 1, 1993

Afghan war falters, general says

By Joe Baker, Senior Editor

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that the U.S. military is losing momentum in Afghanistan in its battle against terrorists because al-Qaeda and the Taliban have adapted to our tactics more successfully than we have to theirs.

Gen. Myers said a debate is in progress within the Pentagon as to whether the U.S. should play down and de-emphasize military operations in favor of supporting reconstruction efforts—what is also referred to as “nation building.”

“I think in a sense we’ve lost a little momentum there, to be frank,” Myers said. “They’ve made lots of adaptations to our tactics, and we’ve got to continue to think and try to out-think them and to be faster at it.”

The Afghan News Network, which reported the story, said Myers suggested it might be time for the military to change its priorities in Afghanistan from hunting al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters (including Osama bin Laden and Muhammad Omar) to reconstruction of the war-blasted country.

In a recently released assessment, the CIA said security in Afghanistan is “most precarious in smaller cities and some rural locations.” The spy agency added, “Reconstruction may be the single most important factor in increasing security throughout Afghanistan and preventing it from again becoming a haven for terrorists.”

Gen. Myers’ call for faster and more flexible responses in the war on terrorism came one day after the U.S. used a drone aircraft to strike a vehicle in Yemen, believed to be carrying six al-Qaeda members.

Retired Army colonel and Pentagon consultant, Andrew Krepinevich said the attack in Yemen can’t mask the continuing instability in Afghanistan and the lack of strong counter-terrorism relationships between the U.S. and nations such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

In remarks at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, Gen. Myers said al Qaeda has proven to be an agile adversary. He said the terrorist group has adapted its communications to block intercepts and also has secured the way it moves money. Myers’ comments reportedly reflect the private opinions of many senior U.S. officials that the military has been too slow to adapt its response to al-Qaeda, both in tactics and in weapons procurement.

“It’s the general consensus within the (special operations) community,” said one senior officer, “that al-Qaeda is extremely adaptive and very cagey. These guys are not weekend terrorists.”

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