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Highlight Reel of McChrystal’s Take on Afghanistan

Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal is before the Senate Armed Services Committee for his nomination hearing to become the next commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the committee, urged McChrystal to address detainee abuse at the hands of troops under McChrystal’s command and outline his perspective on detainee treatment going forward. Here’s a condensed version of McChrystal’s opening statement.

First he “recognize[s] the many Afghan civilians, soldiers and police” who have “sacrificed” for Afghanistan. Then he sid he “stands ready to answer any questions you may have” about the friendly-fire death of Cpl. Pat Tillman.

On Afghanistan strategy: “A resilient Taliban insurgency, increasing levels of violence, lack of governance capacity … lack of development in key areas” threatens the “future of Afghanistan and regional stability.” Providing the Afghan people “with an opportunity to shape their future” requires a “firm commitment” from the United States. “The challenge is considerable,” and “there is no simple answer.” McChrystal advocates a “holistic counterinsurgency campaign.” Casualties “will increase” but “with the appropriate resources, time, sacrifice and patience, we will prevail.”

Are there enough troops for Afghanistan now? “I don’t know, and it may be some time before I do.” But a “military-centric” approach to Afghanistan won’t succeed. McChrystal looks forward to civilian contributions from the State Department and development communities, and particularly from Ambassadors Karl Eikenberry and Richard Holbrooke.

“Central to counterinsurgency is protecting the people,” he said, signaling that the former Special Operations commander isn’t tied to the often enemy-centric focus of such forces. “Precision and discipline is successful,” including “limited” air strikes and reined-in detention operations, which are all together “essential to our credibility” among the Afghan approach, even at the risk of constraining U.S. forces. Effectiveness is measured in “the number of Afghans shielded from violence.” Developing Afghan military and police capacity will be his top security effort. “There will be mistakes” along the way, McChrystal said.

On detainee abuses: in 2003, when he took over the Joint Special Operations Command, McChrystal found his detainee-treatment legal but needed improvement, and he says he updated those rules during his five-year tenure. “I will strictly enforce the highest standard in detainee treatment” in accordance with national and international law. And that’s all he says in his opening statement on the issue.

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