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McChrystal didn't say Taliban were winning

Posted By Uncle Jimbo • [August 10, 2009]

I wrote yesterday about an article in the Wall Street Journal with the headline "Taliban now winning". The article was based on an interview w/ Gen. McChrystal and contained a number of direct quotes from him. It also contained several paraphrases purporting to represent his thoughts, such as.

The Taliban have gained the upper hand in Afghanistan, the top American commander there said, forcing the U.S. to change its strategy in the eight-year-old conflict...
They quote McChrystal directly many times throughout the piece but somehow this bit is absent quotes and I think they may be mis-characterizing what he actually said. If he actually believes they have gained the upper hand, that would be quite significant, but it seems more likely he said they have gained ground.

I also sent an email to the Public Affairs team to see if this was an accurate representation. It doesn't sound like it was.

On Tue, Aug 11, 2009 at 12:13 AM, Sholtis, Edward T USA LTC USAF COMISAF wrote:
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

Jim--I sat in on the interview, and the Journal article overstated Gen
McChrystal's position.  The Commander did not say the Taliban was
winning in his interview, as suggested by the headline.  Asked by the
reporter if the Taliban had the upper hand, he explained that
International Security Assistance Forces are facing an aggressive enemy,
employing complex tactics, that has gained momentum in some parts of
Afghanistan.  During the course of the interview he also observed that
ISAF has had some success in reversing the initiative, and that
insurgents in Afghanistan face their own long-term problems in terms of
public support, group cohesiveness and their ability to sustain morale
and fighting capacity.  There was much more nuance to his analysis than
made it into the Journal article.

Tadd

TADD SHOLTIS, LTC, USAF (OF-4)
Public Affairs Officer for the Commander, ISAF
Headquarters, International Security Assistance Force

Gen. McChrystal is about to deliver a report on the status of our fight in Afghanistan. This will generate considerable discussion about what our efforts should be going forward. We faced a similar situation in 2006 and 2007 as to whether we should "end" the war in Iraq and fortunately we did not. As a result the Surge worked and we have been able to turn more and more control over to the Iraqis.

Afghanistan represents an even tougher challenge, but the stakes involve it's next door neighbor and nuclear weapons. The combined Af-Pak theater is a tremendously difficult mess, but once again we face the choice of ceding control to the extremists, or helping a nascent democracy to grow it's security forces to face the challenge. Let's get this one right as well.


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