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January 26, 2011 5:45 pm

Petraeus: US Gaining in Afghanistan

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Just hours before President Obama gave hisState of the Union address, his commander in Afghanistan, Gen.David H. Petraeus, offered what amounted to his own “state of the war” address, one noticeably more upbeat than a White House assessment issued late last year.

The general’s assessment, in the form of a letter to troops posted on theNATO Web site, outlined a fight in which troops and the military machine here had gained the edge or was on the cusp of doing so on every front. He described victory as attainable only through a vast, coordinated effort to bring Afghanistan security, good governance and economic development.

Ensuring that Al Qaeda never again uses Afghanistan as a haven requires “that we help Afghanistan develop the ability to secure and govern itself,” the letter states. “This in turn requires the conduct of a comprehensive civil-military campaign.”

His call for this expansive effort comes just as some policy makers both in the United States and Europe are questioning the breadth and cost of the mission and the challenge of creating a modern and responsible Afghan government.

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Over all, his assessment strikes a more bullish tone than the White House report on the war, issued in the latter half of December, which cautiously described military gains and warned that they were “fragile” and “reversible.”

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