WASHINGTON — The United States and NATO need a new strategy to defeat the Taliban, the top commander in Afghanistan said Monday as he delivered a classified assessment that is widely seen as the groundwork for a fresh request to add more American forces next year.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal said the nearly 8-year-old war is winnable, but his report is expected to be a blunt appraisal of the Taliban's increasing tactical prowess and diminishing popular support in Afghanistan for both the foreign-led war effort and the fragile, corruption-riddled central government.
"The situation in Afghanistan is serious," McChrystal said, and success "demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort."
McChrystal did not ask for more troops, but he is widely expected to do so in a separate request in a couple of weeks.
NATO nations have repeatedly declined U.S. requests to send larger numbers of new troops or to lift restrictions on many of those now fighting in Afghanistan.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday that the Obama administration will look closely at the "resources requests" expected to flow from McChrystal's assessment. Gates said the review's hard look at the U.S. military's performance contains bright spots amid "gloom and doom."
"We have been very explicit that General McChrystal should be forthright in telling us what he needs," Gates said, following a tour of the Texas factory where next-generation F-35 fighter jets are built and tested.
U.S. officials are bracing for a troop request above the 21,000 new American service members President Barack Obama committed to Afghanistan this year. That would force an unpleasant choice on Obama: Add more troops to Afghanistan just as the strain of the huge force commitments to the Iraq war begins to diminish, or risk losing the war he had argued the United States neglected in favor of Iraq.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president has not seen McChrystal's review yet. Gibbs described the review as "an assessment of where we are and what in his assessment needs to change."
"Any resource-specific resource recommendations, I'm told, will be made in the coming weeks, but are not a part of this report," he said.