- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 21, 2010

The U.S. general who oversees wars in Afghanistan and Iraq said Sunday that the current battle around the southern Afghan town of Marjah is the opening battle in a long campaign.

Gen. David Petraeus said the campaign probably will last 12 to 18 months and is part of the revised U.S. strategy for fighting insurgents in Afghanistan.

Gen. Petraeus told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he has no estimate for how long the Marjah operation will last. The battle is in its second week, and fighting appears to be going more slowly than some had expected.

Gen. Petraeus said that just like in Iraq, U.S. forces expect a fight when they go into places that the enemy has considered sanctuaries.

The general also said he’s not sure that troops in the field care about the sexual orientation of fellow service members.

Gen. Petraeus said he’s served alongside gays and lesbians, and what matters is someone’s skills and smarts.

He said he supports Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ plan to study how the ban could be repealed. Advocates for a quick repeal have said the yearlong review is a stalling tactic, but Gen. Petraeus says it’s a good idea to look at potential problems.

He wouldn’t give his personal opinion on whether the ban should be lifted but said he’ll do so when he testifies before Congress in the spring.

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