WASHINGTON – Despite previous misgivings, the U.S. ambassador to Kabul assured Congress Tuesday that he supports the new war strategy for Afghanistan and is united on the effort with military commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
"I want to underscore at the outset that Gen. McChrystal and I are united in a joint effort in which civilian and military personnel work together every day," Ambassador Karl Eikenberry said in a statement prepared for a morning hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.
While the new strategy for Afghanistan was being devised, Eikenberry questioned McChrystal's plan for a troop buildup. Eikenberry urged the Obama administration to step cautiously in planning any major build up while there are still so many questions about corruption and mismanagement problems in the administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
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But he started his testimony Tuesday stressing he's on board with the new strategy announced last week by President Barack Obama.
"The course he outlined offers the best path to stabilize Afghanistan and to ensure al-Qaida and other terrorist groups cannot regain a foothold to plan new attacks against our country or our allies," Eikenberry said. "I fully support this approach."
Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the committee's chairman, said at the outset that he differs with statements comparing the Afghan surge with the U.S. surge in Iraq, saying that as a percentage of the total number of forces, the 30,000 or so authorized by Obama last week was a much higher proportion of deployment than was the case when President George W. Bush sent additional trips into a surge in Iraq.
"What risk are we accepting in the next 18 months and how can we mitigate it?" he asked. He said he believes that "ultimately, we are protecting the American people" from al-Qaida.
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