Top general: US to stay the course in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — The U.S. must stick to its strategy in Afghanistan, including the planned withdrawal calendar, over the next several months despite recent setbacks that have tested America’s relations with the Afghans, the top U.S. commander for the war is telling Congress.

Gen. John Allen is heading to Capitol Hill Tuesday for the first time since the Quran burnings and last week’s shooting spree, allegedly by a U.S. soldier, inflamed anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan. The incidents spawned attacks against U.S. forces and prompted Afghan leaders to demand that American troops pull out of local villages and rural areas.

The upheaval has fueled Congressional opposition to the war, insuring that Allen will face lawmakers who are bitterly divided and increasingly skeptical of the administration’s strategy.

In frank testimony prepared for delivery to the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday, Allen argues that while the last few months “have been trying,” the coalition and its Afghan allies have made progress and degraded the insurgency.

“This campaign has been long. It has been difficult, and it has been costly. There have been setbacks, to be sure, we’re experiencing them now, and there will be more setbacks ahead,” Allen says. “I wish I could tell you that this war was simple, and that progress could be easily measured. But that’s not the way of counterinsurgencies.”

Allen’s testimony, which was obtained by The Associated Press, comes at one of the most troubled points in the decade-long conflict, as election politics in America and Afghanistan, coupled with the unpopularity of the war, put unprecedented pressure on U.S. commanders to get troops home.

In recent weeks, U.S.-Afghan relations have been strained by the burning by Qurans and other religious materials at a U.S. military base, followed by the massacre just over a week ago of 16 Afghans, including women and children, allegedly by an American Army soldier. Afghans were further angered when the soldier, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, was flown out of Afghanistan and taken to Fort Leavenworth’s military prison in Kansas.

The Quran burnings sparked a week of riots and retaliatory attacks that left more than 30 people dead, including six U.S. soldiers.

Against that backdrop, Allen will tell Congress that while there is much hard and deadly work ahead, “the progress is real, and, importantly, it’s sustainable.”

The chairman of the House panel, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., has pushed for the U.S. to be cautious pulling troops out, so the move won’t risk the gains that have been won.

“An insurgent is the toughest kind of opponent a democracy can fight. Rooting them out takes patience,” he said last week.

But Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., a top Democrat on the committee, is among those calling for a faster withdrawal.

“It is time to bring our troops home, and, while the president has laid out a responsible path to do so, we should continue to look for every opportunity to accelerate our timeline,” Smith wrote in an opinion piece in USA Today.

One senior military official said Monday that while Allen will face tough questioning about the direction of the war, he will urge perseverance in the strategy. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta delivered a similar message last week as he traveled to Afghanistan, insisting that the U.S. must not lose sight of its mission.

The U.S. currently has about 90,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and plans to withdraw another 22,000 by fall. Panetta has said he does not expect to get the schedule for the withdrawal from Allen until later this spring, and that there are no firm plans yet for additional troop withdrawals through the end of the year.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

Grayson Huff, left, a 4th grader at Pinewood Elementary, peeks around his sign during the Marysville School District budget presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
State OKs Marysville plan with schools, jobs on chopping block

The revised plan would mean the loss of dozens of jobs and two schools — still to be identified — in a school district staring down a budget crunch.

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

The Trestle’s junction with I-5 is under evaluation (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Here’s your chance to give feedback on the US 2 trestle and its future

Often feel overwhelmed, vulnerable and on shaky ground? So is the trestle. A new $17 million study seeks solutions for the route east of Everett.

John Pederson lifts a flag in the air while himself and other maintenance crew set up flags for Memorial Day at Floral Hills Cemetery on Friday, May 24, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Volunteers place thousands of flags by veterans’ graves in Lynnwood

Ahead of Memorial Day, local veterans ensure fellow military service members are never forgotten.

Brian Hennessy leads a demonstration of equipment used in fire training at the Maritime Institute in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
‘Ready to go full sail’: Maritime Institute embarks at Port of Everett

The training facility offers Coast Guard-certified courses for recreational boaters and commerical vessel operators.

George Beard poses for a photo outside of the the Stanwood Library in Stanwood, Washington on Wednesday, May 8, 2024.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
From sick to the streets: How an illness left a Stanwood man homeless

Medical bills wiped out George Beard’s savings. Left to heal in his car, he got sicker. Now, he’s desperate for housing. It could take years.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Lawsuit says Snohomish County deputies not justified in Sultan shooting

Two deputies repeatedly shot an unarmed Sultan man last year, body camera video shows. An internal investigation is pending.

An airplane is parked at Gate M9 on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. (Jordan Hansen/The Herald)
Good luck to Memorial Day travelers: If you’re like me, you’ll need it

I spent a night in the Chicago airport. I wouldn’t recommend it — but with flight delays near an all-time high, you might want to pack a pillow.

toon
Editorial cartoons for Friday, May 24

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Cascade’s Mia Walker, right, cries and hugs teammate Allison Gehrig after beating Gig Harbor on Thursday, May 23, 2024 in Lacey, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Seniors Wilson, Tripp power Cascade softball past Gig Harbor

The pair combined for three homers as the Bruins won the Class 3A state softball opening-round game.

The original Mountlake Terrace City Council, Patricia Neibel bottom right, with city attorney, sign incorporation ordinance in 1954. (Photo provided by the City of Mountlake Terrace)
Patricia Neibel, last inaugural MLT council member, dies at 97

The first woman on the council lived by the motto, “Why not me?” — on the council, at a sheriff’s office in Florida, or at a leper colony in Thailand.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.