It was a double-take, what-did-he-say moment at the Pentagon Wednesday morning when the official spokesman ducked a question about whether the U.S. military is making progress in Afghanistan.
Usually that would have been a slam-dunk for the military. Defense Department officials miss no opportunity to point out successes and highlight achievements in the war in Afghanistan - usually. But the latest, looming, soon-to-be released White House review of Afghanistan strategy is stifling such talk for now.
"I'm not one to judge," said Col. Dave Lapan about progress in Afghanistan, at the regular off-camera meeting in his Pentagon office. "There are lots of people who have been intimately involved in this process. I'm not one of them so I'm not going to give my idea."
Obama Administration sources say the U.S. is undergoing a gut-check about how to approach the Afghan corruption issue. While everyone acknowledges corruption is an important problem that must be addressed, there is concern in the administration that the near-myopic focus on corruption over the last several months is detracting from the bigger picture.
Recent discussions, including a White House meeting on Afghanistan this week, have centered around the most productive way to approach the corruption issue, according to the source. Central to the conversation was how corruption plays into U.S. goals in Afghanistan and what can the U.S. realistically expect in terms of combating corruption. FULL POST
[Update 10:25 a.m. ET] Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military man in Afghanistan, said initial approaches to some Taliban members as part of a reconciliation initiative have shown promise and could help resolve the conflict in the country. Petraeus, who heads the U.S. and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, spoke to reporters after greeting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who arrived in the war-torn country Thursday to consult with political and military officials.
[Original post] U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, citing some headway in Afghanistan, arrived in the war-torn country Thursday to consult with political and military officials.
Gates will meet Thursday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Gen. David Petraeus, who leads U.S. and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan. The visit comes ahead of this month's Afghan parliamentary elections. FULL POST
WASHINGTON — One of the key goals of the new commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, is to try to settle the debate on what the significance is of the July 2011 date, according to an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) official familiar with Petraeus' thinking.
After a month in the job where he stayed mostly out of public view, the general is preparing a round of interviews with media outlets.
The significance of July 2011 in the Afghanistan war continues to be a question that the administration is struggling to answer clearly.
U.S. military officials are stressing that any withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan beginning in July 2011 could be fairly minor and will be based on conditions on the ground. When asked if the number of troops to be withdrawn in July could be relatively small, a senior U.S. military official told reporters "we still think that's the case." FULL POST
A Defense Department memo obtained by CNN Monday outlines "consensus recommendations" on how the U.S. military should interact with members of the media in relation to the war in Afghanistan. FULL POST
A controversial and leading U.S. general is in line to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Thursday.
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis - if he wins presidential and Senate approval - will move from being the outgoing commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command to leading the U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia - including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. It also monitors Iran.
He would take over the post left open by the departure of Gen. David Petraeus, who was asked to take over command of the war in Afghanistan.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - After a very public fainting spell, General David Petraeus was back before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday and looking well one day after his mid-hearing faint led to Chairman Carl Levin (D-Michigan) to recess the hearing. Senators were quick to resume their questioning of progress in the Afghanistan war. FULL POST
The U.S. and coalition countries will have to show signs of progress in Afghanistan by this winter or risk losing the support of the public, said U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday.
"I think that it is probably a reality that in virtually all of the coalition countries the publics are going to expect to see some progress this winter, some sign that we are moving in the right direction. I think that the voters are sophisticated enough to know that we’re not going to be done, they’re won’t be victory and that we still have a long road to hoe," he said in London ahead of meetings with NATO allies. "The one thing that I think none of the publics, and I would say including the American public, will tolerate is the perception of a stalemate in which we’re losing young men."
Last December, President Obama outlined a strategy for Afghanistan that would begin to bring U.S. forces home in July 2011, but with no definite date on when the last troops would leave.
He also addressed the Taliban: "At this point the Taliban are part of the political fabric of Afghanistan and to adopt a strategy that basically says we're going to eliminate the Taliban I think is unrealistic."
Listen to more from Gates as he discusses the tough summer ahead in Kandahar, the Taliban and the recent attack on a NATO convoy in Pakistan.
Within weeks, 20,000 U.S., Afghan and coalition forces will have poured into the Kandahar region of southern Afghanistan - a longtime Taliban stronghold. The mission: establish security for the people, improve local government and push the Taliban out.
It's the biggest battle yet in the counterinsurgency warplan of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. U.S. forces have already struck Taliban targets in the area, but McChrystal is now trying to make it look like a more gentle war.
"We're not using the term operation or major operations, because that often brings to mind in people's psyche the idea of a D-Day and an H-hour and an attack," he said at a Pentagon briefing in May.
But what happens if this Plan A doesn't work? Some people say Plan B is to make Plan A work. FULL POST