The Final McChrystal/Eikenberry Hearing Gets Underway
For their last appearance in the three-day gauntlet of congressional hearings, Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry reunited today before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the committee’s chairman, said that U.S. efforts in Afghanistan “cannot stop at the Durand Line,” the border with Pakistan, and must instead pursue “extended terrorist network that shares the same goals” — like “destabilizing Afghanistan and destroying the Pakistani state.” Berman questioned whether Eikenberry had enough civilians, with the right skill sets, “to be effective.” To McChrystal, Berman referenced the Sunni shift against al-Qaeda in Iraq, called the Awakening, and asked whether “we can succeed in Afghanistan without such an Awakening” if one was not on the horizon.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the ranking Republican on the panel, also said she wanted to drill down on the “civilian surge.” (Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew said yesterday to expect a “20 to 30 percent” increase next year above the 974 civilians who will be serving in Afghanistan by January.) She said “claims of failure” over the “past eight years” was an “affront” to the military and not, say, the Bush administration, which she doesn’t specifically reference. Ros-Lehtinen ran the gamut of conservative concerns about the strategy: the July 2011 date for security transitions; whether McChrystal has enough troops; whether the mission is sufficiently broad. And she added a new one: whether McChrystal’s rules of engagement — designed to prevent Afghan civilian casualties — are sufficient to “permanently repel and eliminate the Taliban as a threat.”