Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Afghanistan with plans to assure officials and American troops so that the United States is committed to winning the war despite plans to begin pulling forces out in 2011.
"We are in this thing to win," Gates told reporters while traveling last evening to Kabul, where he planned to meet privately with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and later with troops bearing the brunt of combat.
The secretary's trip to Afghanistan is the first by a Cabinet member since President Barack Obama's announcement last week that he will deploy 30,000 more troops with the intention of starting to bring them home in July 2011.
As Gates took his message abroad, General Stanley McChrystal, the overall military commander in Afghanistan, planned to try today to convince a skeptical Congress that more troops are needed to fight a growing enemy insurgency.
More than 920 US troops have died in the eight-year-old war.
McChrystal's appearance before the House Armed Services Committee starts the first of three days of congressional Afghanistan hearings that are expected to draw hard questions from both anti-war Democrats and conservative Republicans about Obama's stated intention to begin pairing down the US role in July 2011.