by Charles Lemos, Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 08:04:37 AM EST
Perhaps not on the level of Bismarckian Blut und Eisen, but certainly some swagger and bluster from within the Pentagon and this coming on the heels of our near ultimatum to Pakistan.
From General Stanley McChrystal, commander of the ISAF forces in Afghanistan, comes these bold statements in prepared testimony to the House Armed Services Committee:
"We can and will accomplish this mission. By this time next year ... it will be clear to us that the insurgency has lost the momentum."
"And by the summer of 2011, it will be clear to the Afghan people that the insurgency will not win, giving them the chance to side with their government."
"The mission is not only important; it is also achievable. We can and will accomplish this mission."
The New York Times and The Hill have more on the Congressional testimony of General McChrystal and of Karl Eikenberry, the US Ambassador to Afghanistan and a former US general. As the Times notes, there is a remarkable sense of unity and accord from two men who reportedly gave the President diametrically opposed views.
And Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in a surprise visit to Kabul is no less ambivalent: "We're in it to win."
From the Washington Post:
Gates is the first senior U.S. official to visit Afghanistan since Obama detailed the surge. Precise details of his schedule are not being made public for security reasons, but he is supposed to spend time with American troops as well as Afghan officials. Deteriorating weather conditions forced the cancellation of a planned visit by helicopter Tuesday to a training facility for Afghan troops.
Gates told reporters traveling with him that he intends to deliver an unusually bold message to the military men and women already fighting here: "We are in this thing to win."
Obama and his aides have generally shied away from such language, with the president telling ABC News in July that he felt uncomfortable using the term "victory" when fighting a "a non-state actor, a shadowy operation like al-Qaeda," because the goal is to prevent attacks on the United States and because there will never be a signing ceremony with a defeated enemy.
But Gates must calibrate his message for soldiers waging war under difficult conditions. Noting that "some of the units have taken a lot of casualties," Gates said he would seek soldiers' views on "the way forward." That might include issues such as whether their equipment is adequate and whether they are ready to handle the difficult logistics of the surge.
Still, the Secretary rightly temped expectations when he noted that Afghanistan "is going to be a heavy lift, there's no question about it." Indeed.