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Gen. Petraeus on Sunday sought to change that way of thinking, to reassure the Afghan people (and the government) that we would not abandon them.
“Finally, to the people of Afghanistan: it is a great honor to be in your country and to lead ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force),” he said. “I want to emphasize what a number of our country’s leaders recently affirmed – that our commitment to Afghanistan is an enduring one and that we are committed to a sustained effort to help the people of this country over the long-term. Neither you nor the insurgents nor our partners in the region should doubt that.”
It is remarkable that the general in charge of winning a war has to reassure America’s partners, potential partners and enemies that we won’t pick up and leave before we’ve won. That is usually the job of the president. But this president refuses to clearly and unequivocally make that statement. Instead, he uses vague terms like “success,” and speaks repeatedly of the day, only a year away, when American forces will begin to withdraw.
If Gen. Petraeus can achieve a “win” in Afghanistan, whatever that might look like, it will be in spite of, not because of, his commander in chief. The president’s rhetorical hedge against shooting for victory has made Petraeus’ job harder. We should all hope that Petraeus’ considerable diplomatic skills are enough to overcome that disadvantage.
Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader.
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