- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 8, 2009

President Obama’s military commander in Afghanistan and the top U.S. diplomat there — who have clashed on the way forward in recent weeks — unified behind the White House war strategy Tuesday.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry presented a unified front before members of the House Armed Services Committee as the administration opened a second wave of lobbying for congressional support of Mr. Obama’s decision to escalate the conflict in Afghanistan.

Mr. Eikenberry previously opposed Gen. McChrystal’s call for more troops in memos leaked to the press before Mr. Obama last week called for an additional 30,000 soldiers.

“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,” Gen. McChrystal said in his opening statement to the committee.

The White House has faced pressure from both the left and the right, with liberals attacking the surge itself and many conservatives questioning Mr. Obama’s announcement that he will begin pulling out troops in July 2011.

But U.S. officials say the pace of the withdrawal largely will depend on the stability of the Afghan government and the strength of the country’s security forces.

“In the eighth year of our involvement, Afghans must progressively take greater responsibility for their own affairs,” Mr. Eikenberry, a former general in Afghanistan, said in his opening statement.

Rep. Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat, who chairs the committee, has emerged as one of the administration’s key Democratic defenders in Congress.

In his opening remarks, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, California Republican, who is the committee’s ranking minority member, also offered strong support of the president’s plan but reiterated his concerns with the withdrawal date.

The general and the diplomat will have a full day of testimony on Capitol Hill, meeting Tuesday afternoon with the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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