There are encouraging signs and momentum in the once-stalemated war in Afghanistan, two top Pentagon officials said Wednesday, but things may get worse before they get much better.
"I'm cautiously optimistic," the undersecretary of defense, Michele Flournoy, told Congress. "We finally have the right mission, right strategy and right leadership team in place."
She said violence is up, and the upcoming military campaign in Kandahar, the southern city partly controlled by militants, could yield setbacks along what she insisted was an encouraging path overall.
"Our enemies are responsive and adaptable," Flournoy said. "They will find new ways to respond."
The war to displace a persistent Taliban insurgency is now in its ninth year, and even strong supporters of the effort say staggering amounts of time and money have been wasted. The Obama administration ordered a top-to-bottom reorganization of the war effort that will increase U.S. forces in Afghanistan to nearly 100,000.
Flournoy and Lt. Gen. John Paxton, chief of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee that this spring's expansion of U.S.-led military campaign in Helmand province, west of Kandahar, showed that the new strategy is paying off.
Paxton said that there was a sharp increase in the number of tips to U.S. forces about the location of homemade bombs during this spring's operations around the districts of Marjah and Nad Ali in Helmand province. He agreed with Flournoy that the trend is better than a year ago.
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