By Roxana Tiron - 12/07/09 11:00 AM EST
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in
Afghanistan, will make his much-awaited rounds this week at a series of
congressional hearings in the Senate and House.
As lawmakers are still digesting President Barack Obama’s new war plan, McChrystal is expected to tell Congress that it is going to be a difficult campaign, but that it is the right approach and that he has received the resources he requested.
"There are going to be more long nights, more cold days, more memorial services, more frustrations, more questions, more answers to questions, but there are also going to be more Afghans with a chance, more Afghans with security, more Afghans with the ability to make the choice for their future, to build the country the way they want it," he said, according to a report from Voice of America.
About 33,000 U.S. troops will deploy to Afghanistan in the next few months. At least 25 NATO countries will send a total of about 7,000 additional forces to Afghanistan next year, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced Friday.
McChrystal is also expected to explain why U.S. and NATO forces need to transition the security mission to the Afghans in order to succeed in stablizing Afghanistan.
That explanation will directly address the aspect of Obama’s plan that has attracted the most controversy: the July 2011 timeline to begin drawing down U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stressed last week the timeline is part of a “transfer and transition strategy,” and stressed that without the involvement of the Afghan government and security forces the war in Afghanistan cannot be won.
McChrystal will be testifying together with the ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, a former military commander in the South Asian country.
The testimony of America’s two key players has been much awaited in Congress, where particularly Republicans have pressed for their appearance as Obama was deliberating the new war plan.
Their testimonies will be interesting to watch, particularly after recent reports in The Washington Post indicated that Eikenberry expressed deep concerns about sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan until President Hamid Karzai's government demonstrates that it is willing to tackle the corruption and mismanagement that has fueled the resurgence of the Taliban.
McChrystal's testimony comes after a week in which high-ranking administration officials vigorously defended Obama's war plan before a conflicted and skeptical Congress.
Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, on Friday gave a glimpse of the weight McChrystal’s testimony is going to carry before his committee.
Speaking to a conference organized by the American Security Project on Friday, Skelton gave a strong endorsement for Obama’s new war plan, calling it a “good way ahead” with a “good chance” of success. Skelton said he was pleased Obama listened to his commanders on the ground when he decided to send the additional 30,000 troops. Ahead of the decision, Skelton had pressed Obama repeatedly to listen to the military leaders in the field.
Skelton said the most critical answer he wants is McChrystal’s definition of a successful mission in Afghanistan.
Skelton also defended the July 2011 withdrawal date. He stressed that the thinning out of U.S. troops is conditions-based and that it is possible operations will go well for U.S. troops to start withdrawing and transitioning to the Afghan security forces.
“We are entitled to some good luck,” said Skelton. He said it’s important to have the 2011 timeline not just to hold the Afghanistan government’s feet to the fire, but also for the American people, who expect Afghanistan operations to be a “success.”
“They want it to be a success,” and telling the public that the commitment in Afghanistan is open-ended is “not a good thing,” Skelton said.
McChrystal and Eikenberry are testifying publicly before the House and Senate armed services committees on Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday. McChrystal also will be giving a classified, closed-door briefing to House defense appropriators toward the end of next week.