General David Petraeus testified before Congress last week that progress is being made on the ground in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, American public support for the war is at an all time low.
In the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on March 15, the mood was generally optimistic. General Petraeus expressed the need for a continued commitment to the counter-insurgency strategy that is proving effective.
U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is not only centered on military actions to eradicate al-Qaeda and Taliban safe havens; it is designed to build the infrastructure and democratic civil society of a war-torn nation. The transition process starts this spring as stable areas are placed in full control of Afghan security forces. Aiding Pakistan–Afghan relations was also highlighted as being key to securing regional stability.
The House voted last week against a resolution to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by this upcoming July. Those in favor of the Afghan mission understand that success does not have a timetable. The U.S. military is planning to withdraw all combat troops by the end of 2014, but conditions on the ground have to be met. President Obama has requested an additional $110 billion for military operations in Afghanistan for the 2012 budget.
Progress has been made over the last six months, General Petraeus said, as territory has been stripped from enemy hands, Taliban members are laying down arms and reintegrating back into society, markets are gaining momentum, and children are going back to school. Most importantly, Afghan forces are assuming responsibility for the peace and security of their own country. However, Afghanistan is still in a fragile state, and the U.S. should make sure that positive changes become irreversible.
General Petraeus believes that if those fighting the war on the ground believe we can and will win the war in Afghanistan; shouldn’t we, the American people, believe they can, too? As the U.S. and its partners face the final stretch toward lasting success in Afghanistan, it is our duty as Americans to cheer our soldiers on. If we want our troops to come home and leave behind a more secure and stable Afghanistan, we must give them the time and support they need to finish the job.
Calandra Vargas is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation.