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New US commander in Afghanistan given free hand to choose team

world Updated: Jun 11, 2009 15:33 IST

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The new chief of American forces in Afghanistan has been given carte blanche by the Obama administration to hand pick a team of commanders including special operation veterans to carry out the ambitious strategy of stepping up attacks on Taliban fighters and demolish narcotics networks.

The extraordinary leeway has been given to General Stanley A McChrystal to assemble a corps of 400 officers and soldiers to head new army units being rushed to Afghanistan, the New York Times reported.

The move underscores a view within the administration that the war in Afghanistan has for too long been given low priority, and needs to be the focus of a sustained, high-level effort, it said.

General McChrystal is assembling a corps of 400 officers and soldiers who will rotate between the United States and Afghanistan for at least three years.

This kind of commitment to one theatre of combat is unknown in the military today outside the Special Operations community, but reflects an approach being imported by General McChrystal, who spent five years in charge of secret commando teams in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Times said.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that Afghanistan is now the military’s top priority, with 21,000 additional American troops now headed to the war zone, the paper added.