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U.S. on Track in Afghanistan, Military Leaders Tell Senate

By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON — Despite Taliban resistance, U.S. military objectives in Afghanistan are on track, senior U.S. military leaders told the Senate Armed Services Committee today. 

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey and Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. told the committee during their reconfirmation hearing that the International Security Assistance Force mission is on track to achieve its objectives in Afghanistan and end its mission by 2015. 

President Barack Obama nominated Dempsey and Winnefeld for second terms as chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

Dempsey told the senators that Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the ISAF commander, said he will achieve his campaign objectives in developing the Afghan security forces. 

"Now, he does also acknowledge there are some potential gaps that he will have better clarity on after this fighting season," Dempsey said. 

The chairman and vice chairman told the senators that they have given their recommendations for the size of a residual force the United States will leave in Afghanistan post-2014. 

"We've provided several options," Dempsey said. "As the Joint Chiefs, we have made a recommendation on the size, and we've also expressed our view on when that announcement would best meet the campaign objectives." 

The United States and Afghanistan must finalize a bilateral security arrangement -- with legal protections for American service members -- before a decision is made. Dempsey said he would stress this when he meets with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. 

Dempsey told the senators he seeks opinions about Afghanistan. 

"Besides speaking with General Dunford on a weekly basis and visiting him about quarterly, I also reach out to as many other people as I can possibly reach out to who can give us other views," he said. 

All these reports align, the chairman added. 

Having American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 is crucial to success in the country, Dempsey said.

"Although I've told you that the progress of the security forces has been significant," he added, "they would not have the level of confidence to sustain themselves over time if it happens that precipitously."