Top Pentagon officials say the next 12 to 18 months will be key to victory in
the war in Afghanistan.
Testifying before a Senate (Appropriations)
panel Tuesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said they are now more optimistic about
chances for success in Afghanistan.
Mullen told the panel the U.S.
military has the right strategy to reverse the violence. But he said the next
year and a half - in his words - "should tell the tale."
said the situation in Afghanistan started to worsen in 2006 when neighboring
Pakistan began negotiating peace agreements with extremist and insurgent groups.
He said that allowed the Taliban to come back into Afghanistan.
Gates also praised the new strategy for Afghanistan, but said he
is "very sensitive" about the number of U.S. troops being sent
As part of the new strategy, President
Barack Obama ordered additional U.S. forces to Afghanistan. About 7,000 of the
expected 21,000 additional U.S. Marines have already arrived and the rest are
expected during the next few months. Thousands more support personnel are also
on the way.
Gates is traveling to Europe for meetings this week on
Afghanistan. He attends talks Wednesday in the Netherlands with nations that
have forces in southern Afghanistan, and then heads to Brussels for a quarterly
NATO defense ministers meeting on Thursday.