Kerry: General's Plan in Afghanistan Too Ambitious

Kerry calls for a sustained civilian commitment to Afghanistan.

ByABC News
October 26, 2009, 4:11 PM

Oct. 26, 2009 -- Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., today said the strategy submitted to the White House by the top American commander in Afghanistan "reaches too far, too fast" and called for a more narrow, modest mission that he says will eventually enable the U.S. to draw down its military presence there.

"I believe that, if we redefine our strategy and objectives in order to focus on what is achievable, as well as critical, and empower the Afghans to take control of their own future, we will give all of us the best chance to succeed," he said.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal last month submitted a strategy to the Obama administration that calls for a counter-insurgency strategy and requests tens of thousands of additional troops to carry it out. Kerry said he could support a modest increase in troops in the short term, saying, "Under the right circumstances, if we could be confident that military efforts can be sustained and built on, then I would support the president, should he decide to send some additional troops to regain the initiative."

Speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations today, Kerry called for a sustained civilian commitment to Afghanistan, but said the authority must soon shift to Afghan governance and security institutions.

"The nature of our commitment has to evolve away from U.S. military-dominated effort toward support for Afghan institutions and Afghan answers," Kerry said.

"We need to ask ourselves at every turn, will what we do, will this help the Afghan people take responsibility for their country? And if the answer is no, we probably shouldn't be doing it," he added.

Kerry's remarks come one week after he helped secure Afghan President Hamid Karzai's support for a new election after a watchdog group concluded that thousands of votes he received in the August ballot were fraudulent. Kerry was in the country on a fact-finding trip, but stayed on to help broker the agreement between Karzai and his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah.