The upcoming congressional testimony of the administration’s national security team on Afghanistan may be the most pivotal since September 2007, when General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testified about the “surge” in Iraq. At that time, Crocker and Petraeus appeared before skeptical congressional committee members, many of whom were unconvinced by reported progress in Iraq and unsure about the way forward. The testimony galvanized media attention and helped turn the political debate in Washington away from considerations of troop withdrawals.
Similarly, the testimony of Obama administration officials about the way ahead in Afghanistan will garner enormous attention from Congress, the American people, and others around the world. Whether their words will alter the political dynamic on this critical issue remains to be seen; what is certain is that the world will listen closely for indications of U.S. intentions and resolve. As this testimony takes shape, Congress and the administration should consider five key questions.