By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 10, 2009 - The commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan today wrapped up a round of hearings on Capitol Hill regarding the new U.S. approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The themes Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal touched on in appearances before members of both chambers of Congress this week were consistent: he embraced the plan that sends 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and sets a flexible date for beginning a withdrawal, and expressed measured optimism in its potential to reverse insurgents' momentum.
"The president's decision rapidly resources our strategy, recognizing that the next 18 months will likely be decisive and ultimately enable success," he told the House Foreign Affairs Committee today. "I fully support the president's decision."
President Barack Obama last week announced a U.S. strategy for Afghanistan that will bring the number of forces there to roughly 100,000 over the next six months, with the nonbinding goal of beginning to withdraw troops starting July 2011. The Dec. 1 unveiling of the new U.S. approach culminated months of deliberations the president held with senior advisors.
McChyrstal today said he participated fully in the president's assessment and decision-making process, providing his recommendations and best military advice throughout the discussion.
"Combined with insights and policy considerations from across our government, I believe the decisions that came from that process reflect a realistic and effective approach," he said.
This strategy, he added, requires reversing the current momentum of the Taliban while creating "the time and space to develop Afghan security and governance capacity." Among the crucial tasks necessary to achieving success is the training of tens of thousands of Afghan soldiers and police, he added.
The Defense Department this week identified roughly half of the forces to be deployed to Afghanistan, including some 1,500 Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., who will deploy later this month, and 6,200 Marines of Regimental Combat Team 2 at Camp Lejeune alerted for deployment early in the spring.
The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif., also will deploy 800 Marines in the spring, along with an influx of 3,400 soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team from the Army's 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y., department officials said.
Six months into his tenure as the top commander in Afghanistan, McChyrstal said today he expects to return to the war zone with a greater sense of the mission at hand.
"I believe that, with the president's decision and ongoing reforms I outlined in our initial assessment, our efforts are now empowered with a greater sense of clarity, capability, commitment and confidence," he said.