Michele Flournoy, the U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, told lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee that the counterinsurgency strategy outlined by U.S. President Barack Obama in December is headed in the right direction.
"We are on the right road for the first time in a long time in Afghanistan," she said. "I would argue for the first time, we finally have the right mission, the right strategy, the right leadership team in place."
She said the situation was "bleak" in Afghanistan prior to the announcement of the new strategy in December.
Obama in December committed around 30,000 U.S. troops to an Afghan mission modeled after the "surge" in Iraq that saw reconciliation linked to military efforts to support a new government.
Flournoy added that the core element of the goal in the beleaguered nation is to make sure al-Qaida forces are no longer able to use Afghanistan as a safe haven.
An international push into Taliban strongholds in Helmand dismantled parts of the insurgent centers in the south of the country. A pending surge into neighboring Kandahar, Flournoy said, would present different challenges for international forces in the region.
"Inevitably we'll face challenges, possibly setbacks, even as we achieve success," she said. "We need to recognize that things may get harder before they get better."