Challenged by a congressman to "be honest" about how long American troops might have to fight in Afghanistan, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus revealed that he has a personal stake in ensuring that the U.S. war objectives are met -- his son, Stephen, whose recent combat tour was kept "very quiet."
In an emotional exchange with Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., Petraeus said "if I ever felt that we couldn't achieve our objectives," he would be "very forthright" not only with his superiors in the military chain of command but also with President Obama and members of the Congress.
Noting that Obama has said the United States will have combat troops out by the end of 2014, with the Afghan government in position to provide its own security, a skeptical Jones said he could imagine a senior military leader coming before Congress in 2015 and pleading for more time.
"You know, 15, 16, 17 years, for God sakes, how much more can we take, how much more can we give treasure and blood?" Jones asked.
Petraeus replied: "I may not be at this table, probably won't be, in 2015, but I'll tell you that my son is in uniform, and Lieutenant Petraeus just completed a tour in Afghanistan, which thankfully we were able to keep very quiet, and left in November after serving as an infantry platoon leader. We're very proud of what he did. He thinks he was doing something very important."
His son, 2nd Lt. Stephen Petraeus, served in Afghanistan as a member of Alpha Company, 3rd Platoon, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.
Meanwhile, the House is expected to vote today on a resolution demanding the speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, a first crucial test of conservative support for the war among the new Republican majority.
The measure, put forward by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, is designed to appeal to the fiscal conservatism that has dominated the Republican agenda since the start of the year.
But the deficit hawks that arrived in the Congress this year are not widely expected to vote much differently than those who preceded them, observers said. Last year, a similar resolution from Kucinich, an Ohio liberal, won 65 votes, including five Republicans.
Republican leaders do not foresee a large number of defections Thursday, and have spent time educating their members, including the unpredictable freshman class, about the war issue, as is typically done on policies coming to the floor.
"I don't think that they think you legislate the war from here," said Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the House majority whip.
New polling shows a steep decline in public support for what is now the nation's longest war. Nearly two-thirds of Americans no longer believe the war is worth fighting, according to a poll this week.