Monday, March 14, 2011

“The closer you get to this fight, the better it looks.” - Progress is being made in Afghanistan

Many visits by the Brass go this way - They normally only get to see what others "want" them to see.....go here, see that, get on the plane and they're gone...They never really get to talk to the troops as they should or see the places they should see.

SECDEF Gates seems to have broken off from the normal and had time to speak with the troops even visiting some of the more remote places in Helmand....the results? He is optimistic about the progress made by our troops and the ANA.

Let us hope so as like Iraq, too many (especially those in the Media) like to take a crap on those who have worked hard to provide freedom to people who are desperate to live their lives in peace.

Members of Congress should listen to Gen. Petraeus
By Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) - 03/14/11 07:24 PM ET

During a visit this week with U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates observed, “The closer you get to this fight, the better it looks.” Having just returned from a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan a few weeks ago, I couldn’t agree more. We are winning this war, and that is much more evident on the ground in Afghanistan than it is on the front pages of our newspapers.

Our delegation met with senior military commanders and diplomats from NATO and the United States during our trip. We talked to airmen at Bagram Air Base in Eastern Afghanistan, Marines in Helmand Province, and soldiers in Kandahar. We broke bread with the brave young men and women in uniform fighting in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement that harbored al Qaeda in the years prior to 9/11. And we spent time with Afghan leaders who are trying to build a better tomorrow for their people.

One such person was the governor of Marjah, who invited us to join him and other local leaders as they opened a new primary school for the village of Koru. Our delegation went from a heavily fortified U.S. combat outpost and walked without body armor (accompanied by a Marine patrol, to be sure) through a bustling market that a year ago had been one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Afghanistan.

When we arrived at the new schoolhouse, we were greeted by hundreds of children, including dozens of young girls, gathered within the walls of the school compound. They happily endured a cold rain for the ribbon-cutting ceremony that would open “their” new school. The children sported grins that stretched from ear to ear, and expressed their excitement at being given the opportunity to learn how to read.

Although it would be a mistake to simply extrapolate the experience of our walk through Koru and apply it to the whole country, it was clear to our delegation that our forces have made significant gains in the past year and have reversed the Taliban’s tactical momentum. Our forces — working alongside their Afghan partners — have regained the initiative against the Taliban.

We have cleared former enemy strongholds, swept up significant weapons caches that are vital for the insurgency, and are contesting more ground on the physical and human terrain fronts. We have made considerable progress in growing and professionalizing Afghanistan’s army and police so these forces are more capable and reliable partners to our own troops.

As significant as our troops’ achievements in Helmand and Kandahar are, however, they can easily be undone by poor decisions by leaders here in Washington, D.C. This is why this week’s testimony by our commander on the ground, Gen. David Petraeus, is so important. Although the influx of additional troops and a better-resourced counterinsurgency strategy have led to operational gains, after nearly 10 years of war, public support for the effort in Afghanistan is waning.

Gen. Petraeus — who will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday and before my committee the following day — must lay out how this progress can be consolidated into a lasting strategic victory for the United States and its Afghan allies.

The House Armed Services Committee will seek to understand what conditions in Afghanistan would be sufficient to permit the redeployment of some U.S. forces beginning in July 2011. We will ask tough questions regarding the capabilities — and too often, shortcomings — of our Afghan partners. And, we will seek to determine what resources are required to reinforce the positive trends of 2010 so that we can allow the Afghan government to assume the lead in governance and security.

Gen. Petraeus is no stranger to high-stakes hearings held under the bright lights of Capitol Hill. In September 2007, he reported on the security gains that were achieved in Iraq well before the effects of that “surge” were readily visible. The war has changed, but the stakes are just as high.

As we were reminded in a recent Washington Post article about Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly and the tragic loss of his son Robert to an IED attack last November, our nation has asked families to shoulder a tremendous burden. Just as we owe it to our nation’s warriors and their families to remain committed to the fight by properly resourcing the fight, we also owe it to them to get the war’s strategy right. For nothing would do more to honor their sacrifices than to achieve a strategic victory that makes all Americans more secure.

McKeon serves as the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

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