General Stanley McChrystal, head of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told Congress on Tuesday that the additional 30,000 troops ordered by US President Barack Obama will enable allied forces "to reverse insurgent momentum".
AFP - The NATO commander in Afghanistan on Tuesday said a surge of US troops into Afghanistan will quickly reverse the momentum of Taliban insurgents and ensure their ultimate defeat.
The additional 30,000 troops ordered by President Barack Obama "will provide us the ability to reverse insurgent momentum and deny the Taliban the access to the population they require to survive," General Stanley McChrystal, head of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told lawmakers.
The general, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, said that "by the summer of 2011, it will be clear to the Afghan people that the insurgency will not win, giving them the chance to side with their government."
McChrystal, at the center of a renewed push in the Afghan war, said he was confident of success because the Taliban remained unpopular and that Afghans did not see foreign troops as occupiers but as a "necessary bridge to future security and stability."
The Taliban "are not a national liberation front that people inside are just waiting for their success," the general said. "They succeed largely on their coercion."
Obama's plan combines a troop buildup with a target date of July 2011 for the start of a gradual US withdrawal, a provision that has drawn criticism from Republicans who say it plays into the hands of the enemy.
Public support for the war has, however, risen sharply since Obama's decision last week to send the additional troops, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday, with support for the mission leaping nine points to 57-35 percent in favor.
Obama's promise to begin withdrawing troops in mid-2011 has sparked concern in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan that the Taliban could sit out the surge and attack a pared down force in 18 months' time.
McChrystal told lawmakers he did not propose the target date but said setting a timeline for beginning a drawdown posed no problem from a "military standpoint."
He added that the insurgents could try to distort the meaning of the date for propaganda purposes.
Although he believed the strategy was realistic, the general also warned that coalition forces faced "a complex and resilient insurgency" and that Afghans lacked confidence in their government.
"The mission in Afghanistan is undeniably difficult, and success will require steadfast commitment and incur significant costs," he said.
His testimony comes a week after Obama announced the deployment of additional forces, after a three-month review of strategy that focused on McChrystal's dire assessment that the mission risked failure without more troops.
During White House deliberations, McChrystal and the US ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, clashed over war strategy with their views leaked to US newspapers.
Appearing together before lawmakers, the two sought to play down their differences as Eikenberry faced tough questions over his stance.
The ambassador acknowledged he had questioned the size of a planned troop surge but said he supported the final decision.
Eikenberry said he "never opposed additional forces" and shared McChrystal's view that the security situation was deteriorating.
"It was not a question of additional troops. It was the question as we all had about the number of troops," he said.
During the policy debate, Eikenberry said he had questions about the timeline for the troop deployments and "what would be the context that those troops would operate in."
He said he was now "unequivocally" in support of the mission and in agreement with McChrystal.
For his part, McChrystal referred to the ambassador, a retired general and former commander in Afghanistan, as "an old friend."
During the White House debate, Eikenberry reportedly wrote cables voicing doubts about a large troop buildup, saying corruption in the Afghan government had to be addressed first.
Tuesday's hearing came a day after the military announced orders for the first wave of the troop surge, with elements of a 1,500-strong contingent of US Marines due to arrive in southern Helmand province next week.
Date created : 2009-12-08