I am as troubled as most Americans about our longest running war and want to see it brought to a successful conclusion as early as possible. I am encouraged now that a new leader is in place to take over the war effort in Afghanistan.
It is only appropriate that during the week preceding America's Independence Day that the U.S. Senate approved the appointment of General David Petraeus as the new Afghan war commander on a vote of 99 to nothing.
That unanimous vote shows the respect and confidence that the American people, speaking through their elected senators, have in General Petraeus. This appointment is a major part of our efforts to succeed in Afghanistan and contributes greatly toward our goal to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda.
General Patreaus is the architect of the counterinsurgency strategy and now that the troop surge is nearly in place, he will have the requested resources he needs to fully execute this strategy.
During questioning before the Senate Armed Services Committee, on which I serve, General Petraeus reiterated that we have hard work ahead of us in Afghanistan. We are bringing the fight to Al Qaeda and terrorist elements within Afghanistan, so that it doesn't once again become a safe haven for them.
Some question how long U.S. forces will remain in Afghanistan and like many I hope they won't stay longer than needed. Our goal is for Afghanistan to secure itself.
There are important benchmarks, which I helped author, that are set in place to measure progress toward those goals.
I am a strong advocate and proponent of benchmarks to measure progress and will continue to press the Administration to take an honest look at results and evaluate the soundness of our approach.
We know from polling that a majority of Afghans do not want the Taliban to return and believe that the government and NATO and International Security Forces are moving in the right direction. We must break the will of the Taliban and secure the support of the population.
With a planned review of progress in December, General Petraeus' assessment of conditions over the coming months will be critical to informing that review and ensuring success with meaningful progress by this time next year.
General Petraeus has stated that he fully supports and agrees with the policy, based upon conditions on the ground, to begin U.S. troop reductions in Afghanistan by July 2011. He has stated that we want "Afghan ownership of Afghan problems." That is what is known as independence.
As Americans celebrate our independence there is real cause for hope that the day is nearing when the Afghan people will be celebrating their independence as well.