General: More troops needed in Afghanistan

FORT LEAVENWORTH — A top Army general said Friday that training Afghanistan's struggling military and police forces is critical if the U.S. wants to succeed after eight years of war, and he's confident President Obama will OK sending more troops there to do that.

Lt. Gen. William Caldwell IV, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate late Wednesday to lead the joint U.S. and NATO training mission in Afghanistan, told reporters at a farewell reception that he believes Obama will give the war's top commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, at least a portion of the 40,000 additional troops he's requested.

"It has to be done. We have to make this succeed," Caldwell told the Associated Press at Fort Leavenworth. "I don't think our government would ask us to go over and do this mission if they weren't going to give us the resources."

Obama already has upped the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan to 68,000 troops and is considering sending a large amount more, although probably fewer than the 40,000 requested by McChrystal, U.S. officials have said. Caldwell declined to say how many troops he's confident Obama will send.

The president holds his next war council meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Friday, but aides say he is still weeks — perhaps several — away from deciding.

Caldwell has led the Kansas fort since July 2007, and guided development of the U.S. Army's plans for training foreign security forces. His new position will focus on training local army and police forces in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, al-Qaida and other terrorists.

About $12 billion has been allocated over the next two years to train Afghan forces, Caldwell said. A brigade of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., recently deployed to Afghanistan to advise and mentor local police and military.

McChrystal has advocated accelerating growth of the Afghan forces from 200,000 soldiers to 400,000, saying the progress by Afghan forces over the next 12 to 18 months is critical to preserving international support. But efforts to train those units thus far have been hindered by a lack of discipline, widespread corruption and illiteracy.

Caldwell said that beyond training Afghan forces, institutions supporting security and leadership will also be necessary for success. But all that hinges on the outcome of the Afghan presidential runoff election set for Nov. 7, he said.

"There has to be a legitimate government in the eyes of the Afghanistan people," Caldwell said. "We have to be careful not to impose our methods on the Afghanistan people."