Tue, 02 Jun 2009 15:25:58 +0000 – By Kathleen Troia "K.T." McFarlandNational Security Expert/Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
Lt. Gen McChyrstal's confirmation hearings this week provide an much needed opportunity to review our policies going forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and for a frank assessment of where we are now. Two months ago President Obama laid out a revised and narrowed mission in Afghanistan -- to defeat and destroy Al Qaeda -- while he expanded the scope of the war to include Pakistan.
He presented it as a break from the Bush administration's goal of establishing democracy in Afghanistan, and stopping the fight at the border. But the question remains of what exactly does this mean in practice? How does it translate to the battlefield? How does Gen. McChrystal envision prosecuting this war?
Because the fact remains that after almost eight years of fighting, we're losing this war. Al Qaeda has moved on to greener pastures in Pakistan, while a number of militant groups have sprung up in its place in Afghanistan.
We've spent billions and billions of dollars but have steadily lost ground in winning the hearts and minds of Afghanis. We never had enough troops to carry out our objectives, and we've been guilty of mission creep. A democractically elected civilian government is in place, but its legitimacy is questionable because its leaders are thought to have ties to corruption and the narcotics trade. The Afghan army and police are still not ready to assume control and provide security throughout the country.
The questions for Gen. McChrystal will no doubt be many, especially on his record in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they should be. We are entrusting him with one of our most important -- and difficult -- military missions. It's important that our national security team level with the American people about what we face and the resources necessary to succeed -- a quality that was rarely present during the Rumsfeld era.
But in the end, Gen. McChrystal is the right man for the job. He has shown in Iraq that he can think outside the box and adapt America's military tactics to the fight we find ourselves in, even if its not the one we trained for or thought we would find. He was part of the team that turned the Iraq war from a near disaster to a tenative victory within a matter of months. He's a counter insurgency expert and has the confidence of General Petraeus, one of the most brilliant and respected military leaders in modern American history. But Americans deserve a rigorous confirmation process -- and to know where Gen. McChrystal is taking us and how he plans to get us there.