General McChrystal Says Kandahar Operation Will Take Longer Than Planned

By Anne Gearan | June 10, 2010 | 8:58 AM EDT
Brussels (AP) - The campaign to secure the crucial Kandahar region of Afghanistan, where the Taliban insurgency was born, will take longer than planned because local people do not yet welcome the military-run operation, the top U.S. and NATO war commander said Thursday.
"I do think it will happen more slowly than we had originally anticipated," Gen. Stanley McChrystal said.
A military and civilian campaign to neuter the Taliban began in the Kandahar region this spring, and had been expected to ramp up in June and largely conclude by August. It will now probably stretch far into the fall.
"It will take a number of months for this to play out, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing," McChrystal told reporters on the sidelines of a NATO meeting taking stock of the nearly nine-year war.
"I think it's more important that we get it right than we get it fast," McChrystal said.
Kandahar is Afghanistan's second-largest city and a key to the success of President Barack Obama's revamped war strategy, which focuses on turning local allegiances against the Taliban and toward the U.S.-backed central government in Kabul.
Kandahar was always the place where that strategy was most starkly challenged, since the Taliban is a daily presence in neighborhoods and carries a significant level of popular support.
McChrystal said he has underestimated the amount of time needed to get local support, but the overall plan for Kandahar remains the same. NATO forces, working alongside Afghans, are reaching out to local business and political leaders and holding rap sessions known as shuras. McChrystal said he would attend a shura planned by Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the Kandahar region within a few days.
"It's a deliberate process," McChrystal said. "It takes time to convince people."
'I think it's more important that we get it right than we get it fast,' Gen. Stanley McChrystal said.