Tales from the Trail

A ‘critical moment’ in Afghanistan

July 5, 2010

U.S. General David Petraeus made no mention of July 2011 as he formally took command of international troops in Afghanistan fighting a growing Taliban insurgency.petraeus1

“We are in this to win,” Petreaus said at the change-of-command ceremony on Sunday in Kabul.  Petreaus is also charged with starting a drawdown of U.S. forces a year from now — President Barack Obama’s stated goal.

That date does not sit well with Republican lawmakers, who adamantly oppose any timetable for withdrawal.

In Kabul, two top Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee addressed their concerns as Petreaus was saying the war in Afghanistan had reached a “critical moment.”

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham said they’re all for setting goals for a transition — but only after the mission is complete. And they both repeated their view that talking about a “date certain” for withdrawal sends the wrong signal.

“What I worry about more than anything else is the July of 2011 firm date,” McCain said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“I know enough about what strategy and tactics are about,” said the former Navy aviator. “If you tell the enemy that you’re leaving on a date certain, unequivocally, then that enemy will wait until you leave.”

In a separate interview on CBS’s “Face The Nation,” Graham said confusion and uncertainty about July 2011 needs to be cleared up.
“If you send a signal to your enemies you’re going to leave at a certain date, they’ll wait until that date and wait you out,” Graham said.

“If the people in Afghanistan think we’re going to begin to leave in July 2011 and the people in the region think we’re going to begin to leave, we have no chance of winning a counterinsurgency.”

At his confirmation hearing last week, Petreaus sent signals that nothing was set in stone.

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Photo Credit: REUTERS/Ahmad Masood (Petraeus at change-of-command ceremony at NATO-led ISAF headquarters in Kabul)

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