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Petraeus warns of long and expensive Afghanistan mission

from NYT Afghanistan “living story” project:

Petraeus Warns of a Long and Expensive Mission in Afghanistan

By Mark Landler

Dec 10, 2009
7:05 AM

America’s involvement in Afghanistan could stretch on for years and cost upward of $10 billion annually just to finance an adequate Afghan security force, the overall commander in the region told Congress on Wednesday.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, one of the military’s most influential generals, estimated that building and maintaining a combined army and police force of 400,000 — a size that American commanders believe may eventually be needed to fully secure the country — would cost more than $10 billion a year.
Details

“There’s no question, as President Karzai was highlighting yesterday, that Afghanistan will require substantial international funding for years to come in a whole host of different areas, not the least of which is their security forces,” said General Petraeus, the commander of the military’s Central Command, which oversees operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Pakistan and other regional trouble spots.

On Tuesday, President Hamid Karzai, at a news conference with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, said Afghanistan would not be able to pay for its own security until at least 2024, an assertion that surprised Mr. Gates and drew expressions of concern from senators of both parties.

“We’re talking about $150 billion, just on the security side, before we get to the development side,” said Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey. He pressed the general on whether he concurred with Mr. Karzai’s timetable, but the general did not give a clear-cut answer.

“That depends on how rapidly, obviously, they can generate more revenue,” he said. “But certainly it is going to be years before they can handle the bulk of the security tasks and allow the bulk of our troopers to redeploy.”

This was General Petraeus’s first appearance before Congress to defend the new Afghanistan policy, and he referred several times to his experience in Iraq, where he was the architect of the so-called surge.

“Achieving progress in Afghanistan will be hard, and the progress there will likely be slower in developing than was the progress in Iraq,” General Petraeus said. But, he insisted, “Afghanistan is no more hopeless than Iraq was when I took command there in February 2007.”

The general testified with the deputy secretary of state for management and resources, Jacob J. Lew, who helps direct the civilian effort in Afghanistan, and the American ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl W. Eikenberry. Ambassador Eikenberry, a retired lieutenant general, testified on Tuesday with the American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.

The two diplomats defended the administration’s development efforts in Afghanistan, saying they would hold Mr. Karzai to his promises to crack down on corruption by steering aid to ministries or district officials with a proven record of good conduct.

But Mr. Lew, under tough questioning by Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, conceded that there were limits to the ability of the United States to change the behavior of Mr. Karzai or other leaders. “Holding them accountable does not mean that a year from now or five years from now there will be zero corruption in Afghanistan,” Mr. Lew said.

The committee’s chairman, Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, pressed General Petraeus and Mr. Lew about how the United States planned to develop closer links to the Pakistani military and government.

“What happens in Pakistan, particularly near the Afghan border, will do more to determine the outcome in Afghanistan than any increase in troops or shift in strategy,” he said.

But none of the three offered many concrete examples of how the administration could exercise leverage over the Pakistani military or government.

General Petraeus acknowledged that pouring more troops into Afghanistan would raise the risk of driving more militants across the border into Pakistan, where they could further destabilize that country.

“That is why we’re working very hard to coordinate our operations more effectively with our Pakistani partners, so that they know what our operational campaign plan is, and can anticipate and be there with a catcher’s mitt, or an anvil, whatever it may be, to greet these individuals,” he said.

Mr. Lew laid out an extensive program of civilian assistance, including earthquake relief aid and efforts to strengthen the Pakistani electrical grid. He also said the United States wanted to forge closer ties with provincial officials, something it had not done adequately in the past.

It was left to General Petraeus to answer a blunt question from Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut: Is Pakistan’s embattled president, Asif Ali Zardari, in danger of being forced from office?

“I don’t see the prospect or the desire for anyone to change civilian rule,” the general said.

by teru kuwayama at 2010-01-14 06:47:04 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→


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