WASHINGTON – Of some 26 congressional hearings starring Defense Department officials this week and next, perhaps none will be more carefully watched than those featuring Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
Allen is scheduled to testify about recent developments in Afghanistan on Tuesday before the House Armed Services Committee and on Thursday to the Senate.
It’s been a tough few months for the Afghan campaign, and Allen will be faced with questions about how a recent series of disastrous events – including last week’s mass murder of 16 Afghan civilians, the assassinations of U.S. troops by uniformed Afghan counterparts and inadvertent Quran burnings by U.S. troops – impacts overall U.S. strategy.
“You can expect him to talk about the state of the relationship with Afghanistan – the government of Afghanistan and the Afghan people, as well as the state of the campaign and where we’re going,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said Monday.
Though in recent days Afghan president Hamid Karzai has stated Afghans no longer trust NATO forces, U.S. officials have maintained that the incidents have not sent the basic U.S. strategy off the rails.
In an interview last week with CNN, Allen said the United States was still on track to hand over lead security responsibilities to Afghan forces next year and withdraw most U.S. troops by 2014. He dismissed talk of speeding up the drawdown as a result of the incidents.
“The campaign is solid,” he said. “It does not contemplate, at this time, any form of an accelerated drawdown.”
Allen will point lawmakers to some key successes. Among them, the effort to raise 352,000 indigenous Afghan forces by the end of October is months ahead of schedule, while insurgent violence around Afghanistan has dropped by almost 25 percent from this time last year.