June 29th, 2010
09:12 AM ET

A.M. Security Brief

Gen. David Petraeus goes before the Senate Armed Services Committee today. There is little doubt he will be confirmed as the new commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, but senators on both sides of the aisle will want to hear reassurances on the course of the war.

The committee's chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, wants an explanation as to why the much anticipated Kandahar operation will have a preponderance of  International Security Assistance Forces and not Afghan troops, a plan he described Monday as "totally unacceptable."

"It runs exactly contrary to what needs to be done in terms of the success of this mission, to put Afghans more in front," Levin said. "What's going on?"

The latest report from the Special Inspector General for Reconstruction in Afghanistan may have part of the answer. It says assessments so far have "overstated operational capabilities" of Afghan forces, and even "top-rated [Afghan National Security Forces] units have not indicated a capability to sustain independent operations."

To drive the point home, the report goes on: "Serious challenges affect U.S. and Coalition assessment efforts, including security conditions, mentor shortages and inadequate training." (The last point speaks to a long-standing frustration among U.S .commanders that NATO allies have not done more to provide training assistance for Afghan forces.) The report lists "logistic problems, personnel attrition ... infrastructure deficiencies, corruption, drug abuse and illiteracy" among Afghans in uniform.

The International Security Assistance Force acknowledges the problems, but says training has been revamped since the report was prepared.

Much is riding on the success of the Kandahar operation. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, is quoted at the Aspen Security Forum on Monday as saying: "As Kandahar goes, so goes Afghanistan."

He added that tackling the insurgency in Afghanistan is a marathon, not a sprint. "I don't see this ending in 12 months or 24 months," he said.

Plenty for the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to address with Petraeus.

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  1. Dave Althaus

    Since when is Levin a general. Let the troops on the ground decide when the Afghans are ready for combat....not the politicians! If the Afghan troops....and their leaders...... are committed before they are ready, the result will be a disaster! Anyone who has been in combat knows that!

    Who elected these idiots?

    June 29, 2010 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |