DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry spoke to the House and Senate yesterday at the state Capitol about his time in Afghanistan.
General sees a long U.S. presence in Afghanistan
Lt. Gen. Eikenberry is confident of success against the Taliban
The outgoing U.S. commander in Afghanistan told Hawaii lawmakers that U.S. troops would likely need to stay in the Central Asian nation for several years.
But Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry said he was confident the United States and its allies would succeed in ensuring Afghanistan becomes a stable, democratic country that can protect and secure itself.
"There is no problem out there, there is no set of problems out there, that is so daunting that we should not be absolutely confident of success," Eikenberry told legislators yesterday at the Capitol. "We will prevail in Afghanistan if we have time, if we have patience, if we have commitment."
If the U.S. abandons the country before winning, though, Eikenberry said, "this enemy will follow us to our homeland again."
Eikenberry spoke during a stop in the islands before he heads to his next post as deputy chairman of the NATO military committee in Belgium.
His arrival here is somewhat of a homecoming for a general who has served in Hawaii twice in the past six years.
Eikenberry was the Pacific Command's director for strategic planning and policy, based out of Camp Smith from 2004 to 2005.
Several years earlier he was assistant division commander of the 25th Infantry Division (Light) at Schofield Barracks. There, he had the tough task of convincing local residents to allow soldiers to train in Makua Valley, a sacred space for native Hawaiians.
In a sign of the good will he generated in that job, William Aila, the head of Malama Makua -- a Waianae Coast group that sued to stop Makua training -- chanted a Hawaiian prayer of greeting yesterday to Eikenberry and his wife.
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, whose district includes Makua, praised Eikenberry for listening to the people of the Waianae Coast and respecting them despite differences of opinion. She said having the general speak to the Legislature "was our chance" to hear an expert talk about the conflict in Afghanistan.
Thousands of Hawaii-based troops have served in Afghanistan since the United States invaded the country to topple the Taliban and break up al-Qaida after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Last month, 60 Hawaii National Guard soldiers left for the Central Asian nation where they will train police and soldiers for about a year.
The general said Afghanistan has made progress since 2001, developing a functioning constitution and electing a president. But he said the country also struggles with drug trafficking, corruption and the resurgence of the Taliban.
Eikenberry warned more violence was also likely, particularly in the spring when the resurgent Taliban is expected to launch a new offensive.
One of the biggest threats, he said, was the possibility voters could start to question the legitimacy of the democratically elected government of President Hamid Karzai amid all the difficulties.