Opposing Viewpoints on Afghanistan

The Washington Post has an op-ed by Congressman Ike Skelton, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and Senator Joe Lieberman, Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee calling for sending more troops into Afghanistan:

Failure to provide Gen. McChrystal with the military resources he needs to reverse the insurgency’s momentum would make all these challenges harder to manage by reinforcing doubts throughout the region about our commitment to this fight and our capacity to prevail in it. But if we can roll back the Taliban and establish basic security in key population centers, as a properly resourced counterinsurgency will allow us to do, it will put us in a position of far greater strength and credibility from which to convince Afghans and others throughout the region that it is in their interest and worth the risk to work with us.

Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee argues against sending in more forces on CNN’s State of the Union. While Kerry is hesitant to go along with McChrystal’s call for additional forces, he does cite another point made by McChrystal:

Sen. John Kerry cautioned President Obama Saturday against raising troop levels in Afghanistan, saying it would be “entirely irresponsible” to do so while the Afghan government remains in turmoil following national elections.

“It would be entirely irresponsible for the president of the United States to commit more troops to this country, when we don’t even have an election finished and know who the president is and what kind of government we’re working in, with,” Kerry told CNN’s John King in an interview set to air Sunday at 9 a.m. on State of The Union.

Speaking from Afghanistan, Kerry, who is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the U.S. should listen to the advice of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in that country.

“When our own, you know, commanding general tells us that a critical component of achieving our mission here is, in fact, good governance, and we’re living with a government that we know has to change and provide it, how could the president responsibly say, oh, they asked for more, sure, here they are?,” Kerry said.

President Obama and his advisers have held five meetings in recent weeks to discuss U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as they continue to weigh a call from Gen. McChrystal for as many as 40,000 additional troops in Afghanistan.

However, complaints of voter irregularities have dogged the Afghanistan election and the United States’ mission there. The top United Nations official in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour earlier this month that the vote was marred by “widespread fraud.”

Soldier Tries To Avoid Deployment to Afghanistan Claiming Obama Not Legally Commander-in-Chief

I can’t blame the guy for not wanting to go to Afghanistan, but this is a poor argument:

U.S. Army Maj. Stefan Frederick Cook, set to deploy to Afghanistan, says he shouldn’t have to go.

His reason?

Barack Obama was never eligible to be president because he wasn’t born in the United States.

Cook further states he “would be acting in violation of international law by engaging in military actions outside the United States under this President’s command. … simultaneously subjecting himself to possible prosecution as a war criminal by the faithful execution of these duties.”

In the 20-page document — filed July 8 with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia — the California-based Taitz asks the court to consider granting his client’s request based upon Cook’s belief that Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States and is therefore ineligible to serve as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Cook’s lawyer, Orly Taitz, who has also challenged the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency in other courts, filed a request last week in federal court seeking a temporary restraining order and status as a conscientious objector for his client.

Actually, Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961, two years after it became a state.

Orly Taitz has been one of the driving forces behind the “Birther” movement which claims that Obama is not an American citizen.  Considering that several attempts at legal action to block Obama from taking the presidency failed, it seems pretty foolish to use such a claim in another court case.

Al Qaeda Regaining Power

If only George Bush hadn’t gotten confused over who was responsible for 9/11. If only we really were waging a war on terrorists, as opposed to invading the wrong country. The New York Times reports on the consequences of George Bush failing to complete the job in Afghanistan:

Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once-battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

American officials said there was mounting evidence that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, had been steadily building an operations hub in the mountainous Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. Until recently, the Bush administration had described Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri as detached from their followers and cut off from operational control of Al Qaeda.

The United States has also identified several new Qaeda compounds in North Waziristan, including one that officials said might be training operatives for strikes against targets beyond Afghanistan.

American analysts said recent intelligence showed that the compounds functioned under a loose command structure and were operated by groups of Arab, Pakistani and Afghan militants allied with Al Qaeda. They receive guidance from their commanders and Mr. Zawahri, the analysts said. Mr. bin Laden, who has long played less of an operational role, appears to have little direct involvement.

Officials said the training camps had yet to reach the size and level of sophistication of the Qaeda camps established in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. But groups of 10 to 20 men are being trained at the camps, the officials said, and the Qaeda infrastructure in the region is gradually becoming more mature.

The new warnings are different from those made in recent months by intelligence officials and terrorism experts, who have spoken about the growing abilities of Taliban forces and Pakistani militants to launch attacks into Afghanistan. American officials say that the new intelligence is focused on Al Qaeda and points to the prospect that the terrorist network is gaining in strength despite more than five years of a sustained American-led campaign to weaken it.

Downing Steet Paper: Military Action in Iraq and Afghanistan Served as Recruiting Sergeant For Terrorist Groups

George Bush claims that we must fight the terrorists in Iraq so that we don’t have to fight them here, but in reality it is the fighting in Iraq which is fueling the threat of terrorism. In public Tony Blair might repeat Bush’s lines, but in private they know better. The Telegraph reports on a classified paper from Downing Street (emphasis mine):

Tony Blair’s claim that there is no link between Britain’s foreign policy and terrorist attacks in this country is blown apart by a secret cabinet memo revealed today.

A classified paper written by senior Downing Street officials says that everything Britain does overseas for the next decade must have the ultimate aim of reducing “terror activity, especially that in or directed against the UK”.

The memo, circulated in recent weeks to ministers and security chiefs and seen by The Sunday Telegraph, outlines an extraordinary “wish list” of how the Government would like world troublespots to look in 10 years’ time. It also signals a drive to reduce Britain’s military commitments around the globe.

It admits that, in an ideal world, “the Muslim would not perceive the UK and its foreign policies as hostile” – effectively accepting the argument that Britain’s military action in Iraq and Afghanistan has served as a recruiting sergeant for Islamist terrorist groups. Publicly, Mr Blair has resisted this line fiercely. During his final speech as leader to Labour’s annual conference last month, he described such claims as “enemy propaganda”.

John Kerry on Afghanistan

John Kerry has a post at The Democratic Daily on Afghanistan, pointing out that it is Not A Forgotten War.

Bill Clinton Didn’t Allow bin Laden to Escape at Tora Bora

I’ve posted about Bush’s failure to capture bin Laden when he had the chance at Tora Bora several times, but on the eve of 9/11 it deserves to be noted again, especially as right wingers are enjoying their propaganda on ABC which falsely blames Clinton. Paul Krugman reviewed this in today’s column:

The path to this strategic defeat began with the failure to capture or kill bin Laden. Never mind the anti-Clinton hit piece, produced for ABC by a friend of Rush Limbaugh; there never was a clear shot at Osama before 9/11, let alone one rejected by Clinton officials. But there was a clear shot in December 2001, when Al Qaeda’s leader was trapped in the caves of Tora Bora. He made his escape because the Pentagon refused to use American ground troops to cut him off.

No matter, declared President Bush: “I truly am not that concerned about him,” he said about bin Laden in March 2002, and more or less stopped mentioning Osama for the next four years. By the time he made his what-me-worry remarks — just six months after 9/11 — the pursuit of Al Qaeda had already been relegated to second-class status. A long report in yesterday’s Washington Post adds detail to what has long been an open secret: early in 2002, the administration began pulling key resources, such as special forces units and unmanned aircraft, off the hunt for Al Qaeda’s leaders, in preparation for the invasion of Iraq.

At the same time, the administration balked at giving the new regime in Kabul the support it needed. As he often does, Mr. Bush said the right things: the history of conflict in Afghanistan, he declared in April 2002, has been “one of initial success, followed by long years of floundering and ultimate failure. We’re not going to repeat that mistake.”

But he proceeded to do just that, neglecting Afghanistan in ways that foreshadowed the future calamity in Iraq. During the first 18 months after the Taliban were driven from power, the U.S.-led coalition provided no peacekeeping troops outside the capital city. Economic aid, in a destitute nation shattered by war, was minimal in the crucial first year, when the new government was trying to build legitimacy. And the result was the floundering and failure we see today.

Bush Administration Failures in Afghanistan

It’s not only in Iraq that reports show that Bush policies are failing. AP quotes Thomas Schweich, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for international narcotics as reporting that the US strategy to fight Afghanistan’s drug trade has been a failure. Problems in Afghanistan go further than the drug trade as the Taliban is increasing activity. If only Bush had finished the job there, as opposed to use 9/11 to justify his long-held goal of overthrowing Saddam.