By Libby Casey
Alaskan Senator Mark Begich will get a chance tomorrow to publically quiz the President’s pick to run the Afghanistan war. General David Petraeus goes before the Senate Armed Services Committee and must win a majority of senators’ support to move along in the confirmation process. His name is expected to quickly advance, but first the Senators can question him about his plans, the war’s direction and the President’s controversial goal to start drawing down troops by next summer.
Senator Begich says he talked with Petraeus Friday, and wants to hear more about what’s being done to properly train Afghanistan personnel so they can do a bigger share of the heavy-lifting, rather than U-S and Nato forces.
How many are actively working of those who’ve been trained up? Some have been rolled out, they left security forces, so what’s that real number, how do we get to that final number that will be necessary to Afghanistan to protect itself and secure its own borders? That to me is a very important piece. Cause without the security component, you can’t do the economic development, you can’t do the new governance going on there.
Begich says his other great concern is over corruption in the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The taxpayer money being spent over there from this country, we need full value. Not half to services and half to some corrupt official — that is not being prosecuted and put away for a long time.
Begich says coping with the corruption problems may fall to the State Department, but he hopes to hear General Petraeus talk about the partnership between the military and state. That relationship has been frayed – especially after recent comments by General Stanley McChrystal. He resigned as commander of the Afghanistan War last week on the heels of doing a candid interview with the magazine Rolling Stone, in which he and his aides blasted and mocked the Obama Administration.
The President asked him to step down for the breach of protocol and tapped Petraeus to lead the U-S war effort instead. The four-star general is widely credited with turning around the Iraq war in 2007, and now runs U-S Central Command, or CENT-COM.
Senator Begich says while the situation with McChrystal is a disappointment, he’s optimistic about Petraeus’s abilities.
No war should be dependent on one person. If it is then we’ve got a serious problem. And I think the President made a decisive decision, people can argue if it was right or wrong on McChystal, but the point is he’s the Commander in Chief, he made a decision, new leadership is there, new leadership is already moving, confirmation occurs less than 4-5 days later, snap. A lot of things in DC move very slowly. This moved rapidly. And I think that is a good sign.
Begich will only stick around for part of tomorrow morning’s hearing, because he’s among a group of Senators invited to the White House to talk climate change legislation. So has Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski. The meeting was slated for last week, but was postponed when President Obama had to see General McChrystal.