During the past month, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has been arguing with NATO allies over the issue of the number of soldiers being sent to Afghanistan. The Amercan commander of forces in Afghanistan, General McNeill openly clashed with his allies not only over ther failure to send sufficient troops, but on the short term stay of those personnel. He complained about “minimalist forces” who are too few in number, and, for the most part only remain for a six month tour of duty. He compared the NATO effort to that of Americans who have at least a 15 month tour of duty. This allows, according to General McNeill, an opportunity to develop “relationships with the terrain, with the indigenous pepple and their leadership, and with the enemy.” The Americ an general was critical over the lack of training being given NATO forces for operations in Afghanistan.
It is now almost seven years since the Taliban was defeated and supposedly driven from Afghanistan. One would assume that over a seven year period the United States and its NATO allies would have been able to train an Afghan fighting force that could handle any insurgency. The goal should not be for American or NATO forces to learn about the terrain or form relationships with the local population, but this should be the task of Afghan soldiers. General McNeill complains over Canadian soldiers spending time in training activities rather than fighting. Perhaps, if more time was spent in training an Afghan army there would not be need for American and NATO forces in the country.
Admiral Mullen is now calling for reducing deployment time from 15 months to 12.