Levin: Media too focused on negative in Afghanistan; it's a 'mixed picture'

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin on Sunday blamed the media for growing public discontent with the war in Afghanistan.

Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, said on CNN's "State of the Union" the dropping support for the war can be traced to the spreading public dissatisfaction.

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“What I see is a mixed picture with some signs of progress,” said Levin. “What gets out is the negative picture, and almost exclusively — actually there [are] some positive indicators, too.”

Levin acknowledged that American casualties have risen. July was the deadliest month of the war, after the loss of 66 servicemen and women.

Levin stressed that the Afghan army has begun to shoulder a greater burden of the fighting and that coalition forces are pursuing Taliban fighters more aggressively in enemy territory.

“It's a very important point, and it's been I think missed so far by the media, that where we are taking the extra casualties particularly is right down where the Taliban have had control,” Levin said.

“And we are removing Taliban control in the Kandahar area gradually, but it's being done as we speak now with the Afghan troops taking the major lead and with more Afghan troops finally than American troops there.”

While Democratic support for the war has dropped in the House, Levin said it has remained firm in the upper chamber.

Levin also warned against creating an impression that the U.S. military commitment is short-lived.

President Obama has announced that he will begin reducing force levels in July 2011, but Levin said that goal should not been seen as a withdrawal date.

Echoing the policies of the administration and military leaders, Levin said the extent of troop reduction would depend on progress on the ground.

“It's critical that that date was set to show that it isn't a blank check, it's not an open-ended commitment of American troops in the same numbers that we're going to have there,” Levin said. “We are going to begin to reduce our military presence. The pace will be determined by the conditions.

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