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All Eyes on Kandahar Strategy

That’s going to be the focus of this morning’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this morning with Gen. David Petraeus and Michele Flournoy, the undersecretary of defense for policy, and tomorrow’s complementary hearings in the House. Both The New York Times and The Washington Post have big stories on congressional angst over the Obama administration’s war strategy and its next moves in Kandahar. The Post:

“I think we are all concerned,” said Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee who visited Afghanistan last month.

“The hearing is an attempt to find out what is going on in Kandahar,” said a Senate Armed Services Committee aide, adding that Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), the panel’s chairman, “is particularly focused on whether there has been a change in strategy or timetable for the Kandahar campaign.”

The Times:

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander in Afghanistan, said last week that operations in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar “will happen more slowly than we originally anticipated.”

Other military officers, were more pessimistic. “If anybody thinks Kandahar will be solved this year,” a senior military officer said, “they are kidding themselves.”

As a result, some inside the administration are already looking ahead to next year. “There are people who always want to rethink the strategy,” said a senior administration official. He, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

But notice that Ben Rhodes, one of Obama’s closest foreign policy advisers, told the Post that the president is “confident of the approach we have in place and in General McChrystal’s implementation of the strategy.” And note that Rhodes took ownership of the strategy rather than saying it was McChrystal’s strategy. If he had, it would be rhetorically easier to cast that strategy aside.

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