Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Sen. Kerry Warns Against Afghan Build-Up

An influential Democratic senator has warned against deploying tens of thousands more U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Inter Press Service

Amid growing speculation and partisan bickering over what President Barack Obama will do about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, an influential Democratic senator Monday warned against deploying tens of thousands more U.S. troops there.

Just back from a diplomatic triumph in Kabul, Sen. John Kerry criticised a military proposal to send some 40,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan as part of a major counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign to defeat the Taliban as “go(ing) too far, too fast”.

“We have already begun implementing a counterinsurgency strategy – but I believe that right now it needs to be as narrowly focused as possible,” he told the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) here. “We must be very wary of over-extension. And I am particularly concerned about the potential for us to be viewed as foreign occupiers.”

Afghanistan’s government, he went on, should – with U.S. help – make major advances in building up its own military and security forces and in providing better governance to its people before Washington commits substantially greater numbers of troops to the fight.

“Under the right circumstances, if we can be confident that military efforts can be sustained and built upon, then I would support the president should he decide to send some additional troops to regain the initiative,” he said.

At the same time, he rejected what he called a “narrow counterterrorism (CT) mission” – initially favoured by Vice President Joseph Biden, according to published reports – that would permit the administration to draw down the roughly 68,000 U.S. troops who are currently deployed to Afghanistan and rely on a strategy of drone and Special Forces strikes against leaders of al Qaeda and allied groups.

“We all see the appeal of a limited counterterrorism mission – and no doubt it is part of the endgame. But I don’t think we’re there yet,” he said. “A narrow mission that cedes half the country to the Taliban could lead to civil war and put Pakistan at risk.”

Moreover, he added, “we need boots on the ground” to obtain the intelligence needed to track down terrorist targets.

Kerry’s speech comes at a critical moment in the ongoing public and internal administration debate over U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, a debate that is certain to become more intense after Monday’s crashes in two separate incidents of three U.S. helicopters.

A total of 11 troops and three anti-drug agents were killed in what was the single deadliest day for U.S. forces in Afghanistan in more than four years.

It also comes in the wake of an extended trip by Kerry to Kabul where he reportedly played a major role in persuading President Hamid Karzai to accept a run-off election next month against his main challenger, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah.

That success, which was widely noted in the mainstream media, will likely give him additional influence both among his fellow-Democrats in Congress, who appear split on Afghanistan, and within the Obama White House with which he has consulted closely over the past 10 months.

Obama has been deliberating for more than a month on a bleak analysis of the situation in Afghanistan submitted in August by his top military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

The review argued that only a large-scale COIN campaign designed to provide security in key population centres and accelerate the training of Afghan forces can reverse the momentum that has been running in the Taliban’s favour for the past several years.

While McChrystal’s report, which was leaked to the Washington Post in September, did not state explicitly how many U.S. troops would be needed to accomplish the mission, insiders suggested that the general and his immediate superior, the chief of the Central Command (Centcom), Gen. David Petraeus, were hoping for a total of at least 100,000.

Since the leak, most Republican leaders have called on Obama, who has held a series of meetings on Afghanistan with his top national security advisers over the last several weeks, to urgently adopt McChrystal’s proposed strategy and any number of troops that he requests.

Last week, former Vice President Dick Cheney accused Obama of “dithering while America’s armed forces are in danger”, a charge that has since been taken up with enthusiasm by right-wing and neoconservative hawks in Congress and the media.

In his remarks Monday, Kerry took on Cheney directly, noting that it was the former vice president “who in 2002 told America that ‘the Taliban regime is out of business, permanently’.”

“Make no mistake,” he went on, “because of the gross mishandling of this war by past civilian leadership, there are no great options for its handling today.”

Kerry praised McChrystal, noting that “he understands the necessity of conducting a smart counterinsurgency in a limited geographic area”, specifically in the Pashtun regions of eastern and southern Afghanistan where the Taliban is strongest.

“But I believe his current plan reaches too far, too fast,” he said, adding, “We do not yet have the critical guarantees of governance and development capacity – the other two legs of counterinsurgency.”

“[D]ecisions about additional troops,” he said, should be based on an assessment of three conditions.

“First, are there enough reliable Afghan forces to partner with American troops – and eventually to take over responsibility for security?” he asked, stressing the importance of “on-the-job training… as soon as possible”.

“The second question… is, are there local leaders we can partner with? We have to be able to identify and cooperate with tribal, district and provincial leaders who command the authority to help deliver services and restore Afghans’ faith in their own government,” he said.

“Third, is the civilian side ready to follow swiftly with development aid that brings tangible benefits to the local population?” he asked, noting that, “Progress on this front is expected in the coming months with a significant influx of U.S. civilians and efforts to work with the Afghan government to implement reforms.”

“[A]bsent an urgent strategic imperative,” he said, “we need a valid assessment by the president and other appropriate civilian authorities – not just the military – that those three conditions will be met before we consider sending more soldiers and Marines to clear new areas.”

Jim Lobe is the Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to Right Web (http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/).

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a leading framer of the “global war on terror” and a staunch supporter of aggressive U.S. military action around the world.


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Right Web readers will be familiar with Mr. Fleitz, the former CIA officer who once threatened to take “legal action” against Right Web for publicizing reports of controversies he was associated with in the George W. Bush administration. Fleitz recently left his job at the conspiracy-mongering Center for Security Policy to become chief of staff to John Bolton at the National Security Council.


Norm Coleman is chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition and a former senator from Minnesota known for his hawkish views on foreign policy.


Billionaire hedge fund mogul Paul Singer is known for his predatory business practices and support for neoconservative causes.


Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, is a passionate supporter of Trump’s foreign policy.


Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest “pro-Israel” advocacy group in the United States, is known for its zealous Christian Zionism and its growing influence in the Republican Party.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trumpian new regional order in the Middle East is predicated on strongman rule, disregard for human rights, Sunni primacy over Iran and other Shia centers of power, continued military support for pro-American warring parties regardless of the unlawfulness of such wars, and Israeli hegemony.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A comparison of U.S. nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the current version with North Korea puts the former in a good light and makes the latter look disappointing. Those with an interest in curbing the dangers of proliferating nuclear weapons should hope that the North Korea picture will improve with time. But whether it does or not, the process has put into perspective how badly mistaken was the Trump administration’s trashing of the Iran nuclear agreement.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Numerous high profile Trump administration officials maintain close ties with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. In today’s America, disparaging Islam is acceptable in ways that disparaging other religions is not. Given the continuing well-funded campaigns by the Islamophobes and continuing support from their enablers in the Trump administration, starting with the president himself, it seems unlikely that this trend will be reversed any time soon.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trump administration’s nuclear proliferation policy is now in meltdown, one which no threat of “steely resolve”—in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words—will easily contain. It is hemorrhaging in part because the administration has yet to forge a strategy that consistently and credibly signals a feasible bottom line that includes living with—rather than destroying—regimes it despises or fears. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle must call for a new model that has some reasonable hope of restraining America’s foes and bringing security to its Middle East allies.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare: “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown, or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate. Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

To bolster the president’s arguments for cutting back immigration, the administration recently released a fear-mongering report about future terrorist threats. Among the potential threats: a Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; an Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; a Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The recent appointment of purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom exposes the cynical approach Republicans have taken in promoting religious freedom.


RightWeb
share