Speaking to the U.S. Army Soldiers Radio and Television, Gen. Stanley McChrystal said the mission in Afghanistan is not about conventional warfare.
"This is a war for the people," he said in the interview, carried on the Web site of NATO's International Security Assistance Force. "It is both to protect them and in that process, to win their support for their government."
The general's comments were mostly directed at the new U.S. and coalition troops arriving in Afghanistan.
McChrystal, who has laid out strict rules of engagement for his troops, designed to protect civilians and avoid civilian casualties, urged the troops to assess every action they take. He said the mission is to build confidence among the Afghan people in their government and in the coalition and Afghan security forces.
He said he hoped the coalition forces, serving as models of integrity, will help the Afghan troops eradicate from their ranks corruption that he described as "a cancer that will kill the force if it is not dealt with."
While emphasizing U.S. forces have the right and responsibility to use whatever assets necessary to protect themselves and their comrades, the general also noted: "If we can't win (the support of the Afghans) we can't succeed. So every action we take ... has to be put in that context."