POSTED: Thursday, June 17, 2010 - 9:29am
UPDATED: Thursday, June 17, 2010 - 9:29am
Gen. David Petraeus tells Senate troop withdrawal could begin next year.
With recent bloody battles and mounting U.S. casualties, Centcom Commander General David Petraeus had to go before doubters in Congress Wednesday to again defend the president's surge strategy in Afghanistan.
"This is June 2010, are we winning?" asked South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
"Winning, to a counterinsurgent, Senator, means making progress, and in that regard I think we are winning but I think that it is, I think we are winning but I think that it is a slow process," General Petraeus responded.
The general even suggested the strategy might be a bit ahead of schedule.
"The Afghan forces are very much in the fight, in the lead in some areas," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The fight isn't just on the battlefields in Afghanistan according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who spent the day testifying to another committee.
"This is not going to be a traditional military campaign in Khandahar," he explained. " There is a huge political and economic component to this."
All of the 30,000 additional troops President Obama ordered to Afghanistan will be in place by September.
Still, some doubt the wisdom of a declaration that the U.S. plans to begin withdrawing a year from now.
"Right now general we are sounding an uncertain trumpet to our friends and our enemies," Senator John McCain complained. "They believe that we are leaving as of July 2011."
Petraeus also offered words of support for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, under fire of late for erratic behavior.
"At the end of the day, his success is our success," Petraeus said.