Cross-posted at Docudharma, MyDD, and OpenLeft.
We are confident that not only is it winnable, but that we have no choice. We must prevail in Afghanistan.
However, we need more than the right team and the right strategy. This team must also have the resources it needs to succeed—including a significant increase in U.S. forces.
In the interim, the president and his allies—and we count ourselves among them on this issue—must invest significantly greater effort to explain why, as the president recently put it, Afghanistan is a "war of necessity."It looks as if it is fair to say that Obama's greatest congressional war allies are McCain, Graham and Lieberman. How do you trump THAT?
We are ready to stand with the president through the tough months ahead, and we believe that strong and steady leadership from the White House can rebuild public support for the war.
Meanwhile, Dick Durbin takes a teensy-weensy baby step on Afghanistan.
On Sunday's Meet The Press, Sen. Durbin was asked by David Gregory if he supports sending more troops to Afghanistan.
Durbin replied, "No I don't."
Durbin said he agreed with Sen. Levin.
“I think at this point sending additional troops would not be the right thing to do,” he said. “At this point we should follow Sen. Levin’s suggestion. Let’s get it right on the ground, let the Afghans bring stability to their own country. Let’s work with them to make that happen.”
What Durbin's agreeing with Sen. Levin about is not sending more troops to Afghanistan until the U.S. speeds up the training and equipping of more Afghan security forces. From this, Senators Levin and Durbin would presumably be just fine with sending more troops once the U.S. speeds up arming and training the Afghan army and police. Of course, Senators Durbin and Levin are quite happy to buy more buns and crap so our troops can eat crapburgers in Afghanistan until....whenever.
And of course, in a country spread out over harsh geography like Afghanistan, with layers on layers of corruption that blanket it top to bottom and side to side, how do you stand up a Boy Scout troop, let alone an army and police force?
The term Taliban gets disparate use, but it's important to remember that the Taliban movement was born in Kandahar province, and led from the beginning by Mullah Omar, originally as a rebellion against corrupt warlords. The Taliban movement was/is strengthed by Pakistan's ISI, which saw the Taliban as an effective means of keeping India out of Afghanistan. But the Taliban movement is accurately thought of as a Pashtun movement. Ethnic Pashtuns stretch across southern Afghanistan into large portions of Pakistan. The Durand Line which separates Afghanistan and Pakistan was concocted by British imperialists, and bisects an area that on ethnic grounds can be called Pashtunistan. They are historically a feudal culture, who constantly fight among themselves, but who unite to REPEL INVADERS.
Graham Fuller is a former CIA station chief in Kabul and a former vice-chair of the CIA's National Intelligence Council. He contributed an article titled "Obama's Policies Making Situation Worse in Afghanistan and Pakistan" at Huffington Post:
The Taliban represent zealous and largely ignorant mountain Islamists. They are also all ethnic Pashtuns. Most Pashtuns see the Taliban -- like them or not -- as the primary vehicle for restoration of Pashtun power in Afghanistan, lost in 2001. Pashtuns are also among the most fiercely nationalist, tribalized and xenophobic peoples of the world, united only against the foreign invader. In the end, the Taliban are probably more Pashtun than they are Islamist. [emphasis added]Taking on the Taliban in southern and eastern Afghanistan with a huge military footprint is the same as taking on ethnic Pashtuns in their homeland. Those who ignorantly call to defeat and destroy the Taliban are advocating for a fool's mission that is equivalent to the asinine idea of destroying the Pashtun people. Afghanis themselves seem to want to find a way to reach peace with the Pashtun Taliban.
But Russ Feingold has the guts to take a firm stance that is consistent with the realities of Afghanistan. Does this make him an enemy of the President, and McCain-Graham-Lieberman the President's friends?
We need to start discussing a flexible timetable to bring our brave troops out of Afghanistan. Proposing a timetable doesn't mean giving up our ability to go after al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Far from it: We should continue a more focused military mission that includes targeted strikes on Taliban and al Qaeda leaders, and we should step up our long-term civilian efforts to deal with the corruption in the Afghan government that has helped the Taliban to thrive. But we must recognize that our troop presence contributes to resentment in some quarters and hinders our ability to achieve our broader national security goals.Thank you, Russ Feingold.
Some may argue that if we leave now, the Taliban will expand its control over parts of Afghanistan and provide a wider safe haven for al Qaeda. But dedicating a disproportionate amount of our resources to the military occupation of one country is not the most effective way to combat the terrorist threat we face. Even if we invest billions more dollars annually for the next 10 years and sacrifice hundreds more American lives, we are unlikely to get a credible government capable of governing all Afghan territory.
There is a very real possibility that our military presence in Afghanistan will drive militant extremists south and east into Pakistan, al Qaeda's primary sanctuary. Pakistan is a nuclear power beset by poverty, sectarian conflict, ineffectual government, instability and an inconsistent record of fighting militancy. It is a witch's brew of threats to our national security that we cannot afford to further destabilize. Yet we may unwittingly do just that. Especially before Pakistan's government has demonstrated a firm commitment to denying sanctuary to Taliban leadership it has long harbored, further destabilization could undermine our own security.
I'm not alone in being troubled by the prospect of destabilizing Pakistan. During hearings in May at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I asked the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, and Special Representative Richard Holbrooke, whether our troop increases might worsen instability in Pakistan. Adm. Mullen candidly said he shared that concern.
Mr. Holbrooke went even further. "You're absolutely correct," he said, "that an additional amount of American troops, and particularly if they're successful in Helmand and Kandahar, could end up creating a pressure in Pakistan which would add to the instability."
Instead of increasing troop levels in Afghanistan, we should start talking about a flexible timetable to begin drawing those levels down. It is time to ask the hard questions—and accept the candid answers—about how our military presence in Afghanistan may be undermining our national security. [emphasis added by the diarist]
Special note to President Obama, Dick Durbin, Carl Levin, and The American Public: Pssssst! Russ Feingold is your friend. McCain, Graham and Lieberman....aren't.