McChrystal, Eikenberry Rally Behind Afghan Plan
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NPR's Mary Louise Kelly reports.
MARY LOUISE KELLY: Member of Congress have been clamoring for months for General McChrystal to come testify, and they finally got what they asked for. McChrystal is taking questions at four separate hearings this week. He set the tone at his debut yesterday before the House Armed Services Committee when Chairman Ike Skelton asked...
IKE SKELTON: General, will you be successful in your mission?
STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL: I believe we will absolutely be successful.
LOUISE KELLY: McChrystal was equally absolute a few hours later when Senator Carl Levin pressed him for his views.
CARL LEVIN: Is it your personal, professional judgment that the president's strategic plan is the correct plan?
MCCHRYSTAL: Yes, Mr. Chairman, it is.
LEVIN: Are there any elements of the plan you don't agree with?
MCCHRYSTAL: I'm comfortable with the entire plan, Mr. Chairman.
LOUISE KELLY: Still, McChrystal didn't get everything he'd asked for from the White House. So, Republican Congressman Buck McKeon pushed the general. Will the 30,000 extra troops that President Obama has authorized be enough to win?
BUCK MCKEON: Given the many leaks you requested, at a minimum 40,000 additional forces, please explain why the president is not under-resourcing his own strategy.
LOUISE KELLY: Over the course of the hearing, the general explained that with the narrower mission, he has what he needs, and he does not anticipate having to ask for any more troops. He told lawmakers he's looking ahead to three specific points in time.
MCCHRYSTAL: By next summer, I expect there to be significant progress that is evident to us inside our force. By next December, when I report back to you in detail, I expect that we'll be able lay real progress out that will be clear to everyone. And by the following summer of July 2011, I think the progress will be unequivocally clear to the Afghan people. And when it's unequivocally clear to them, that will be a critical, decisive point.
LOUISE KELLY: That last date, July 2011, is, of course, when President Obama has promised to start bringing troops home. The withdrawal timeframe has prompted a good deal of controversy and confusion, but General McChrystal downplayed its significance.
MCCHRYSTAL: I don't believe the July 2011 timeframe militarily is a major factor in my strategy.
LOUISE KELLY: McChrystal says the timeframe is helpful, as he puts it, as a forcing function, meaning as a tool to force the Afghans to start taking responsibility for their own security. General McChrystal shared the witness table with a man he referred to as his old friend. That's the U.S. ambassador to Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, who returned the compliment.
KARL EIKENBERRY: I'm also honored to testify alongside General Stan McChrystal, my professional colleague and friend of many years.
LOUISE KELLY: Even as the men professed their mutual affection, colleagues have spoken of a chill between the two. They've not always seen eye to eye on the strategy in Afghanistan. Republican Senator John McCain asked Eikenberry about reports that he opposed the troop build up.
JOHN MCCAIN: Ambassador Eikenberry, during the decision-making process, there were several cables that you sent back that were classified secret and yet were revealed to the media that indicated you had strong reservations about the surge. Those reservations have been resolved in your mind?
EIKENBERRY: Senator, I'm 100 percent with the refinement of the mission. With the clarification on the ways that we are going to move forward and the resources allocated against this, absolutely.
LOUISE KELLY: Still, there were subtle differences between the president's top general and his top diplomat in Afghanistan. Remember how General McChrystal was unequivocal telling lawmakers we will absolutely be successful? Ambassador Eikenberry was more cautious.
EIKENBERRY: Success is not guaranteed, but it is possible.
LOUISE KELLY: Mary Louise Kelly, NPR News, Washington.
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