Washington (CNN) – The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says that, even after more than nine years of war, there is no clear definition of success in the U.S. military’s operation in Afghanistan.
“If you had to say on this day I will know that the U.S. has succeeded and we can begin bringing troops home, what would that day look like?,” CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley asked Lugar in an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“Well, your question implies that we've defined success and we've never got to that point,” Lugar replied. “That's a part of our problem, that we're going to have to, as a government, whether it be the president or the Congress, define success in a way in which the American people find this to be satisfying. Otherwise, we'll continue to argue about the date of withdrawal or how fast or how - whether we surge more or less - without ever having defined exactly what it is we hope from Afghanistan.”
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In the same interview, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee proposed the kind of definition that Lugar said was lacking. Asked about the Obama administration’s July 2011 benchmark for beginning to draw down U.S. troops, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said the situation has to allow the Afghanistan government and people to build their country.
“I think the metric of success, to a great extent, has to be a measure of security and stability within the country, so that a government can grow, can move out of a corrupt phase, a nation can be built by its own people. And you have to enable that environment,” Feinstein said.
“You clearly can't enable that environment when you've got people that destroy schools, bomb hospitals, bomb roads, do those kinds of things,” Feinstein added, referring to the insurgency challenging the Afghan government and destabilizing the war torn country.
In recent testimony before Congress, Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, said President Obama’s July 2011 target date was a conditions-based benchmark.
"It is important that July 2011 be seen for what it is: the date when a process begins, based on conditions; not the date when the U.S. heads for the exits," Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Moreover, my agreement with the president's decisions was based on projections of conditions in July 2011. And needless to say, we're doing all that is humanly possible to achieve those conditions."
Speaking at a NATO meeting in Europe recently, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan, said operations against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan will happen "more slowly than we had originally anticipated."
"I think it will take a number of months for this to play out. But I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I think it's more important that we get it right than we get it fast," McChrystal said.