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Patraeus supports Afghan war troop drawdown

Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 15, 2011, before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the situation in Afghanistan. (AP Photo)

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan insists the military can boost Afghan security forces to fight the Taliban, begin a troop drawdown this summer and fulfill President Barack Obama‘s goal of a long-term partnership with the Kabul government.

Facing a skeptical Congress and a war-weary public, Army Gen. David Petraeus is trying to build support for the continued and costly U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, telling lawmakers the conflict is turning around despite concerns about the viability of President Hamid Karzai’s government and the dedication of neighboring Pakistan to root out terrorism.

The general testifies before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.

His first day of Capitol Hill testimony Tuesday came as a new Washington Post-ABC poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans consider the war no longer worth fighting. He acknowledged the growing opposition.

“I think it is understandable that the American people could be frustrated that we’ve been at this for 10 years and, you know, we haven’t won yet,” he said.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the Afghans — and by extension the American people — may find it difficult to reconcile the Obama administration’s objectives.

“On the one hand, we hear the president — and Gen. Petraeus has repeated it today — that we’re going to start withdrawing our troops this summer in order to underscore the urgency and undermine the Taliban narrative that we’re going to be there forever,” Collins told Petraeus and Michele Flournoy, the undersecretary of defense for policy. “On the other hand, both of you have said how important it is that … we do need a long-term relationship. I would just suggest that I think that’s part of the confusion that we see reflected in the polls about exactly what is our long-term strategy.”

Petraeus said he didn’t see the objectives as “mutually exclusive strands of logic.”

“I think … it’s appropriate to talk about getting the job done,” he said. “I think it’s also appropriate to talk about the commencement of transition … while even beyond that, discussing the initiation of discussions on a strategic partnership with our Afghan partner.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last week while visiting Kabul that a U.S. delegation would begin discussions this week with the Afghan government on sketching out a relationship that would last beyond 2014, the target date for ending U.S. and NATO combat. In her testimony Tuesday, Flournoy offered no details but said the U.S. interest lies in providing longer-term training to Afghan forces.

“We are in the process of discussing what kind of parameters should outline that partnership,” she said. “I should also add, it goes far beyond the military domain, to look at how we can support further development of governance, economic development and so forth.”

She said this would not involve any permanent U.S. military bases in Afghanistan.

Petraeus said much of the Taliban’s battlefield momentum has been halted, putting the U.S. on course to begin pulling out troops in July and shifting security responsibility to the Afghans.

“The momentum achieved by the Taliban in Afghanistan since 2005 has been arrested in much of the country and reversed in a number of important areas,” Petraeus said. “However, while the security progress achieved over the past year is significant, it is also fragile and reversible.”

With tougher fighting ahead this spring and summer, it seems likely that the first troops to be withdrawn in July will be support forces like cooks and clerks, not combat troops.

Petraeus said he has not yet decided how many troops he will recommend that Obama withdraw in July. The U.S. has about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan and its international partners have about 40,000.

The general cited recent battlefield progress, but also expressed concern that Congress was not providing enough money for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to ensure that military successes are translated into economic and political advances. He also cited a troublesome but still modest effort by Iran to undercut U.S. efforts in Afghanistan by arming, financing and training the Taliban.

Pressed repeatedly by lawmakers as to why U.S. forces should stay in Afghanistan, Petraeus said, “Two words, and those are 9/11,” referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He said the United States made a grievous error in abandoning Afghanistan once before.

“I think it would be a mistake, a big mistake, to go down that road again,” he said.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

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4 thoughts on “Patraeus supports Afghan war troop drawdown”

  1. I keep hearing the Afghan forces abandon their posts the first chance they get. Here’s an interesting read from the past on Soviet troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Note Reagan and Bush Sr. both armed the rebels, ie the Taliban/al Qaeda via Pakistan and the CIA. Now you know why I call them al CIAda. Just like Saddam in Iraq, we created our opposition in the “War on Terror” and then turned on them when it suited our needs. Oh but they hate us for our freedoms! DERRRRR!

    • Concerning the Russian withdrawal Woody, we can all thank John Rambo for driving the “Evil Empire” from Afghani territory… : D

      The reason the ruskies left is they were flat dead broke as a nation. Next came the toppling of the Berlin wall along with a complete unraveling of their failed ’empire’. They were so broke they were paying their troops and government employees in “cabbages”. Not joking either. In order to prevent a coup or mutiny with our former enemy turning into a dangerous out of control, desperate adversary; Clinton & Co. stepped in and authorized the shipment of 100 million per week to this new Russia so they could pay the troops and their bills. The money was created out of thin air via the unholy Fed~U.S. Treasury axis of evil; ie, freshly printed c-notes transported from Andrews AFB to Moscow. Very few people know of this ‘aid’ given to born again Russia. I think it was a smart thing to do rather than the consequences of a nuclear holocaust occurring as a function of a failing nation turning into a rogue enemy.

      Based on how the world has changed for the worse post the dissolution of the Soviet Union which provided stability to many of these now unstable regions, the ‘cold war’ seems like a more ‘peaceful’ paradigm; a kinder, gentler time for sure. With the fall of our major ‘enemy’, it seems America’s leadership guided by PNAC doctrine has gone ‘nuts’ with we becoming a dangerous aggressor and a nuisance nation to all. The MIC must be fed!

      We could head the same direction as the former Soviet Union ; ie., a breakup of the U.S. into various regions as a function of federal insolvency with not even enough money to pay our troops or keep our navy steaming about. If people think it can’t happen, then they best think again.

      Our government is already delinquent in paying many of their bills to the private sector for supplies and services, the same with VA benefits etc. We’re already moving down the pathway of a deadbeat nation. The only thing people will have left will be the the ‘remnant ‘ of their state, county/township and local government with which to interface. It’s how our nation started and we could very well be headed back from whenst we came when America was a less complicated society prior to many years of federalization.

      Carl Nemo **==

  2. Of course he supports troop drawdown.

    As a Four Star General he’s smart enough to know that if this once great country doesn’t stop borrowing money to fund this fiasco it won’t be too long before there won’t be any money for his twice monthly funding. and that would simply be too painful.

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