Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, saying that the ongoing campaign in Southern Afghanistan’s goal of reclaiming Marjah is the only the opening salvo in a larger initiative to crack the Taliban. Flournoy is one of ExecutiveBiz’s Top 20 People to Watch in 2010.
According to the Washington Times, she testified “Marjah is an opening salvo. It is a first step. It is designed to begin to create that shift in momentum. And I think once we have that in Helmand the focus will shift to Kandahar province.”
Flournoy did not want to divulge details of the Taliban’s displacement in response to the US occupation of Marjah and the coalition’s response, or the effect the shift was having on American forces, saying “it’s maybe more for some of our intelligence-agency brethren. But we can certainly talk about it more in a closed session.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) challenged Flournoy on the reports that the Taliban was steadily gaining new volunteers:
“Secretary Flournoy, there are press reports that the Taliban have been able to build up their strength by about 35 per cent over the past two years in the Afghan-Pakistan border up by 7,000 more than in 2008 to about 27,000,” said McCain.
Flournoy declined comment, but volunteered to discussed the statistics in a closed session.