Wicker believes U.S.-led coalition can succeed in Afghanistan

The U.S.-led military surge to defeat the Taliban and help stabilize Afghanistan’s shaky democracy could show substantial progress by year’s end if Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s efforts in key areas succeed, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker says.
The Tupelo Republican and member of the Armed Forces Committee made his assessment Tuesday before returning to Mississippi after a fact-finding trip to war zone, including Pakistan.
Wicker, in a telephone interview from Reagan National Airport in Washington, said the strategy in Afghanistan, approved by the Obama administration and Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, is like the successful efforts in the Iraq surge that helped win over tribal and village leaders.
Wicker said he still disagrees with the Obama administration’s pre-surge setting of a July 2011 date for beginning withdrawal from Afghanistan. He said the elements, including a strong coalition of allies, plus the United Nations, are in place to accomplish the mission.
Wicker said he was particularly impressed with the British component, which he characterized as integral to the success of the strategy. He said other coalition troops in various roles come from Australia, Germany, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and other nations.
“This is truly an international effort,” Wicker said.
Wicker and several colleagues from the House and Senate also went to Pakistan, where they met with Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the country’s most powerful leader and commander of the army.
Wicker said Kayani, who was trained in part in the U.S., understands the urgency of defeating the Taliban, citing his sweep of the key Swat Valley, which he wrested from Taliban control.
Wicker said maintaining and developing a strong relationship with Pakistan is important because it is an established nuclear power and an essential player in outcomes in the region.
Wicker said his group also visited with President Hahmid Karzai in Kabul, the Afghanistan capital, and traveled to Camp Leatherneck, a remote Marine outpost that is a virtual U.S. military city.
Contact Joe Rutherford at joe.rutheford@djournal.com or (662) 678-1597.

Joe Rutherford/NEMS Daily Journal