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Negative assessments

Gen. Keane’s assessment contrasts with a NATO report, widely quoted in the British press, that says the Taliban is poised to retake Kabul.

Much press attention also has focused on a scathing insider’s article in the Armed Forces Journal, an independent publication. Army Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis accuses senior commanders of lying to the American people about purported progress in Afghanistan.

“What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground,” wrote Col. Davis, who spent last year in-country as part of a rapid equipping force. “Instead, I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level.”

He added: “How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding and behind an array of more than seven years of optimistic statements by U.S. senior leaders in Afghanistan? No one expects our leaders to always have a successful plan. But we do expect — and the men who do the living, fighting and dying deserve — to have our leaders tell us the truth about what’s going on.”

Gen. Keane dismisses Col. Davis’ assessment.

“He doesn’t know what he is talking about,” the general said. “It is absolute rubbish. I don’t know what his agenda is or where he’s coming from.

“We have some of the best guys we’ve ever had in our military running this thing. This is my fourth assessment. In February of last year, we had already changed the momentum in the south and southwest. I went back in July and looked at it again. We had some of the fiercest fighting we’ve ever been involved in. And I looked at it again now. We have consolidated those gains.”

Gen. Keane said the big worry among officers and civilian officials is Mr. Panetta’s accelerated pace for ending the fight for U.S. forces.

“We can’t pull our forces out and at the same time degrade the support for the Afghan National Security Forces,” he said. “If we do that, that would be a slipshod exercise. It would be detrimental.”