But Gen. Rodriguez , who runs day-to-day operations in the war, said his best guess is that "it will happen between nine and 11 months," starting in January, to "get it all done."
He said his troops started trying to beef up the infrastructure faster the moment the president made the troop announcement — doing everything from expanding airport runways to laying communications lines — to be ready to both receive troops here in Bagram, and then to support them at new outposts in the field.
The original goal was to get 40,000 troops into Afghanistan by March 2011, Gen. Rodriguez explained. Backing that number off to 30,000 relieves some of the pressure, he said, but in a landlocked country where the troops and much of their equipment has to come in by air, there's only so fast you can build, he explained. "And so many things have to line up perfectly, like the weather."
He insists this pace is still faster than the one he and General Stanley McChrystal had envisoned. "I don't think we're far off from where everybody's trying to get," he said.
The general spoke to reporters traveling with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. An official traveling with the chairman said the aim is still to have the bulk of the troops in by this summer, but that the estimate of nine to 11 months was realistic. He said "we slid to the left all the deployments we could," and more are still being worked out.
Rodriguez said the majority of the troops would head to southern Afghanistan. In another briefing, a military official explained those troops will take on the enemy, side by side with Afghan troops. Where the ratio now is one U.S. soldier to four or seven Afghans, the goal is to reach a one-to-one ratio. No one would venture an estimate as to how long that would take to achieve.