June 15th, 2010
10:22 AM ET

Key senators question progress in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — Key senators questioned on Tuesday the progress and planning for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.

Opening a hearing on Afghanistan, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, questioned the ratio of U.S. and NATO troops to Afghanstan troops, urging for a faster ramping up of Afghan security forces.

"Progress towards the goal of Afghans taking the lead in operations has been unsatisfactory. Today operations in Afghanistan are excessively dependent on coaltion forces," Levin said.

Levin said that in the coming campaign in Kandahar, there is a plan of one Afghan security force for every two international troops. He called instead for a one-to-one ratio with Afghan forces in the lead.

His Republican counterpart, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), said in his opening remarks that the key trends were going in a "bad direction, perhaps even signalling a mounting crisis."

"Hoping for success on the arbitrary timeline set by the administration is simply unrealistic," McCain said, calling for President Obama to say the U.S. will stay in Afghanistan until there is success.

But the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq said progress is being made even as the security violence has gotten more intense.

The surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan is ahead of schedule but the situation on the ground will get more difficult before it gets better, warned the Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of CENTCOM and overseeing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"I noted several months ago... the going was likely to get harder before it got easier. That has already been the case, as we've seen recently," Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services committee, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.

All 30,000 U.S. additional troops ordered by Obama last year will be in place in Afghanistan by the end of August, according to Petraeus. Troops had originally been scheduled to be in place by September.

He told the congressional panel Tuesday that increasing the size and capability of the struggling Afghan National Army and police forces are back on track but there is more work to be done.

The Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy also argued that progress has been made.

“We are regaining the initiative and the insurgency is beginning to lose momentum,” she said in her opening statement, but noted outcome is “far from determined.”

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