Speaking to reporters in Kandahar, Lt.-Gen. Michel Gauthier warned that the surge of U.S. troops arriving in 2009 will likely prompt retaliation from the Taliban, particularly in Afghanistan's volatile southern region.
"There will be a higher level of violence in 2009 than there was in 2008. I wouldn't actually see a decrease in violence until perhaps the following year when we begin to gain traction with some of the capacity," said Gauthier, who has spent the last several days in meetings.
Gauthier's expectation for an eventual decrease in violence by 2010, however, may seem a little optimistic in the eyes of many analysts and even Afghans themselves, the CBC's David Common reported from Kandahar.
"For many people in Afghanistan, particularly in the south where it has been very violent, it's something that is difficult to believe because there has been so very little stability for some time," Common said.
Gauthier's comments come as conflict in Afghanistan is at its highest level since the U.S. invaded in 2001, followed shortly by Canada. The number of allied and Afghan troops, as well as civilians, killed in the conflict continues to rise.
In fact, what it really demonstrates is more or less what I've been claiming for some time, and reflects the Soviet experience in the region as well - namely that the foreign troops are serving primarily as a focal target for the various groups that would otherwise be competing for power.
In the U.S., president-elect Barack Obama has said he hopes to shift troops from Iraq and bolster the U.S. presence in Afghanistan in the upcoming year. Commanders there want at least 20,000 more troops, while Obama has pledged to send up to 12,000 to complement the more than 30,000 U.S. troops already stationed.
That almost sounds good, but I suspect that Obama will find that once the American presence in Iraq begins to diminish, it will turn into a mire every bit as messy as Afghanistan - and for the same reasons. It would be naive in the extreme to think that the groups in Afghanistan and Iraq are not in communication with each other.