U.S. Army General David Petraeus says success in the war in Afghanistan is possible, but progress against the insurgency probably will be slower than during the surge of U.S. forces in Iraq.
General Petraeus appeared Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Petraeus, who led the Iraq surge in 2007, said he supports President Barack Obama's decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.
Petraeus, the head of the U.S. Central Command, said he thinks the new policy will over the next 18 months enable the U.S. to make important progress. He predicted that fighting will intensify and that there will be greater turmoil within the Afghan government in the coming months.Petraeus would not give an estimate of how long it will take for Afghan forces to assume full responsibility for their country's security.The general appeared alongside the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry.
Eikenberry, who previously questioned aspects of a troop buildup, reiterated his support for the president's new strategy in his second day of questioning by lawmakers.Some Democratic and Republican lawmakers have expressed concern about corruption in the Afghan government, the number of Afghan troops and their capabilities, and the president's plan to start withdrawing U.S. troops in July 2011.
In an interview with VOA, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, said the July 2011 date was specifically selected. He said if U.S. military leaders do not know if the current plan is succeeding at that point, then they will change the strategy. Ambassador Eikenberry testified Tuesday before the House and Senate Armed Services committees with General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
McChrystal told lawmakers Tuesday President Obama's strategy for Afghanistan is achievable, and that the next 18 months will be decisive.The general also said capturing or killing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is paramount to defeating the terror network. He said bin Laden's very existence is a recruiting tool for al-Qaida.