The U.S. embarked on the war in Afghanistan with its NATO allies, 10 long years ago. And now, a man who was a top commander in that war, Stanley McChrystal told the Council on Foreign Relations that the U.S. approach to the war was a "frighteningly simplistic" view of that country and even now doesn't have the knowledge that could help bring the conflict to a successful end.
Now retired, Army General Stanley McChrystal said in his remarks that the U.S. and NATO are only "a little better than" 50 percent of the way to reaching their war goals.
And McChrystal said the most difficult of the tasks still remaining will be to create a legitimate government that Afghans will believe in and that will be able to create a balance to the Taliban's influence.
reports that McChrystal commanded coalition forces in 2009-10. But he was forced to resign in a flap over a magazine article. He says the U.S. entered Afghanistan in October 2001 without a steep enough understanding of Afghan culture.
"We didn't know enough and we still don't know enough. Most of us — me included — had a very superficial understanding of the situation and history, and we had a frighteningly simplistic view of recent history, the last 50 years."
U.S. forces, he says, did not know the country's different languages and did not make "an effective effort" to learn them.
The New York Daily News
reports that McChrystal also said that the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq under two years after entering Afghanistan made the Afghan effort more difficult.
"I think they were made more difficult, clearly because the Iraq invasion changed the Muslim world's view of America's effort. When we went after the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, there was a certain understanding that we had the ability and the right to defend ourselves and the fact that Al Qaeda had been harbored by the Taliban was legitimate. I think when we made the decision to go into Iraq that was less legitimate" in the eyes of much of the Muslim world."
McChrystal also points out that the war in Iraq also diverted some military resources that could have been put to good use in Afghanistan.