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Petraeus: Progress in Afghanistan will take time
Question of the Day
WASHINGTON (AP) — Progress in Afghanistan only began this spring and needs time to take root, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said in comments broadcast Sunday that were aimed at shoring up American support for the war.
Gen. Petraeus, who has been credited with a successful war strategy in Iraq and who took charge of U.S. and NATO military operations in Afghanistan in July, described an “up-and-down process” of seizing Taliban-controlled territory and creating “small pockets of progress” that he hopes will expand.
“We’re here so that Afghanistan does not once again become a sanctuary for transnational extremists the way it was when al Qaeda planned the 9/11 attacks in the Kandahar area,” Gen. Petraeus said in an interview taped in Kabul, the Afghan capital.
Gen. Petraeus and other military officials have warned of more combat casualties as additional U.S. troops are sent to the fight. Last fall, President Obama authorized 100,000 troops in Afghanistan — triple the level from 2008.
As the fighting intensifies, the Pentagon and White House are hoping that political support for the war can hold at least through year’s end to give Gen. Petraeus time to show progress. He is expected to give an updated assessment to Congress in December.
Gen. Petraeus said in the interview that the war only recently has been given the right “inputs,” or resources: more U.S. and Afghan troops to take over Taliban territory and more civilians to restore services to the population.
“There is understandable concern and, (in) some cases, frustration,” Gen. Petraeus said. “Therefore, we have got to really put our shoulders to the wheel and show during the course of this year that progress can be achieved.”
Gen. Petraeus described Afghanistan as a tough and enduring fight that would require its “character and its size being scaled down over the years.” If the United States loses, there likely would be a bloody civil war followed by a takeover by extremists. If the United States succeeds and Afghanistan stabilizes, the country could become the region’s new “Silk Road,” with the potential to extract trillions of dollars worth of minerals, he said.
But the goal is not to turn Afghanistan into an industrialized democracy, he said. Even if the nation relies heavily on tribal councils for governance, the central government in Kabul still could run the nation effectively without influence from extremist groups such as al Qaeda.
He also said the Taliban leadership had detached itself from much of the fighting, occasionally sending messages via cell phones, but it is not as engaged in the war as before.
“We actually see discussions among (Taliban foot soldiers), chatter among them … wondering where their senior leaders are, and wondering why (Taliban leader) Mullah Omar hasn’t set foot back in Afghanistan or even been heard from now in months and months and months,” he said.
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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