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Ex-admiral: More troops needed to fight al-Qaida

KENNEWICK -- A former Navy admiral thinks more U.S. troops are needed in Afghanistan to fight al-Qaida successfully.

Retired Rear Admiral Stuart F. Platt shared his views Thursday on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan while speaking to about 100 Rotarians at the Columbia Center Rotary.

Platt was appointed by the Reagan administration as the Navy's first Competition Advocate General, the Navy's top spot for a businessman in uniform. He also received the Distinguished Service Medal for helping improve procedures to procure Navy ships, aircraft and weapons systems.

Both war zones are different from a conventional battle arena, he said. "The enemy doesn't wear uniforms," Platt said, adding the conflict can also be described as a "clash of cultures," and in the case of Iraq, also a U.S. quest for oil.

Those who oppose U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are guided more by tribal loyalties than a national agenda, and there has been a mismanagement of war efforts on the part of the U.S. government, he said.

But an increase in the number of troops in Iraq allowed the government to work out an exit strategy. Troops will be pulled out there sooner or later, he said. "It's a timing issue."

An increase in the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan -- despite what President Obama's advisers may say -- will achieve the goals of the U.S. policy in the area, which is to stabilize a democratic Afghanistan and rid the country ofal-Qaida, said Platt, now chairman and chief executive officer of Harbor Wing Technologies in Seattle. His company produces unmanned, open-ocean surveillance and research vessels.

Afghanistan has rugged terrain that for centuries has tested soldiers, said Platt, citing examples from history.

In the 19th century, British India, which wanted to use Afghanistan as a buffer against Russia, couldn't control Afghan tribes, Platt said. But centuries before, the Mongols of Genghis Khan did well in Afghanistan in the 1200s, he said.

-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; pjoshi@tricityherald.com; Business Beat blog at www.tricityherald.com

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