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Al-Qaida Adapting Its Tactics Too Fast for U.S. to Keep Pace

By Thomas E. Ricks and Vernon Loeb

The U.S. military is losing momentum in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan because the remnants of al-Qaida and the Taliban have proven more successful in adapting to U.S. tactics than the U.S. military has to theirs, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said this week.

Gen. Richard Myers also said that there is a debate taking place within the Pentagon about whether the United States needs to change its priorities in Afghanistan and de-emphasize military operations in favor of more support for reconstruction efforts.

”I think in a sense we’ve lost a little momentum there, to be frank,” Myers said in after-dinner comments Monday night at the Brookings Institution. “They’ve made lots of adaptations to our tactics, and we’ve got to continue to think and try to outthink them and to be faster at it.”

Myers, the nation’s top military officer, suggested that it may be time for the military to “flip” its priorities from combat operations aimed at hunting down remnants of al-Qaida and Taliban fighters to reconstruction in Afghanistan, a notable shift in priorities for a Pentagon that has eschewed nation-building exercises.

The CIA, in a recently released assessment, called security “most precarious in smaller cities and some rural locations” and said: “Reconstruction may be the single most important factor in increasing security throughout Afghanistan and preventing it from again becoming a haven for terrorists.” Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently launched an anti-corruption campaign aimed at cracking down on provincial leaders who continue to challenge the authority of the country’s central government.

Myers issued his call for faster and more flexible approaches in the counterterrorism war a day after the United States conducted an air strike in Yemen using an unmanned aircraft. A CIA-operated Predator drone on Sunday attacked a vehicle believed to be carrying six al-Qaida members with Hellfire missiles, obliterating the vehicle and its passengers.