US ‘must reduce Afghan deaths’

“Classic” counterinsurgency tactics favoured by Obama pick to head US and Nato operations.

general Stanley McChrystal barack Obama US president afghanistan
McChrystal, right, has told a senate committee that the war in Afghanistan is 'winnable' [EPA]

Al Jazeera’s Cath Turner in Washington DC says the main difference between McChrystal and his predecessor is his effort to outline from the start his aim to support the Afghan civilian population.

The objective is to win the civilians over and assuage their anger over casualties inflicted by US raids.

In depth

In a surprise shake-up last month, Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, dismissed Army General David McKiernan as the most senior US and Nato commander in Afghanistan and selected McChrystal as his replacement, saying it was time for “fresh thinking”.

The US is boosting its troop numbers in a bid to counter growing Taliban violence across the country, following orders from Barack Obama, the US president, who has made success in Afghanistan a central tenet of his foreign policy.

At present there are 54,000 US troops in Afghanistan  and that figure is expected to reach 68,000 later this year.

Other nations, mainly Nato members, have more than 30,000 troops in the country.

‘Abuse’ controversy

McChrystal has spent the past 10 months or so in a senior Pentagon desk job as director of joint staff, but ran the secretive Joint Special Operations Command from 2003 to 2008.

During this period, troops who worked for the command reportedly committed abuses including beating detainees with rifle butts, simulating drowning, and using them for target practice in paintball games, US media reports said.

The allegations led rights groups to express concern over McChrystal’s nomination.

Speaking for the first time in public about the issue, McChrystal told senators that he did not condone the mistreatment of detainees and that those involved in the allegations were punished.

He said he believed that methods of interrogation had stayed within “established and authorised guidelines” set by Donald Rumsfeld, then secretary of defence.

He said he would “strictly enforce” the highest standards with regard to the treatments of detainees in a manner “consistent with international and US law”.

McChrystal is widely expected to be confirmed when his nomination is put to a later vote in the house and senate. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies