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'Success or failure of Afghan policy would be clear by 2011'

Last updated on: December 05, 2009 09:59 IST

The success or failure of the new Afghan strategy would be known by the summer of 2011; that is why it has been chosen as date for drawdown of US forces from Afghanistan, Obama Administration's top military and defence officials said on Friday.

"It's been described by some as an arbitrary date. It's not an arbitrary date. In fact, those of us in the military believe that that date is a date where we will know certainly whether we're succeeding or not in Afghanistan with this strategy," said Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of US Joint Chief of Staff, at a Congressional hearing.

Mullen explained that a major assessment will occur about a year from now. "That will start to look at obviously what's happened over the next 12 months and start to focus on what the changes or adjustments might be over the following year, which would certainly encompass July 2011."

"But the reason that date was picked is because we added 10,000 Marines this year in Helmand. They immediately had a positive impact particularly from a counterinsurgency standpoint. And so in the middle of 2011, we will have had three summers if you will -- '09, '10 and '11 -- where we've had those kinds of forces," Mullen said.

Mullen said, "the marines will have been there three years, and we'll really be able to assess -- for three seasons I mean. We'll really be able to assess how they're doing and where this is going. That's obviously enhanced with the additional forces that the President has committed to. And I too believe that his decision to commit the forces is one of very, very strong resolve to turn this around."

"The date was chosen essentially for the reasons that Admiral Mullen just described. It's two years after the Marines went into Helmand, three fighting seasons, and we will have a very good idea by that time whether this strategy is working and what successes we have been able to have," US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said.

Noting that President Barack Obama is determined with July 2011 as the date for drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan, Gates reiterated that this is going to be a gradual process of transition. "The transition to Afghan security responsibility will start presumably in the least contested areas, some of which perhaps could happen now. It will involve not just the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police but local authorities, local police, tribal groups and various other security units," he said.

"It will be our commanders on the ground, in my view, who make the decision, who make the recommendation, that a district or a cluster of districts or a province is ready to transition to Afghan security responsibility, just as they did in Iraq," Gates added.

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