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John Kerry: Losing Afghanistan, We’re Not Adequately Fighting the War We Should Be Fighting

by Pamela Leavey

We’ve lost focus on the war on terror, and the recent release of the NIE report over the weekend by the N.Y. Times helped to make it crystal clear, that our pressence in Iraq is, to quote John Kerry “a fuel depot for terror fanning the flames of worldwide jihadism.” Five years after 9/11, we are “not adequately fighting the war we should be fighting,” — the war in Afghanistan.

In an OP/ED in today’s WSJ, John Kerry points out “Washington seems to have forgotten Afghanistan,” however, “it is clear the Taliban and al Qaeda have not”:

Losing Afghanistan
We’re not adequately fighting the war we should be fighting.

Monday, September 25, 2006

As we marked the fifth anniversary of the worst attack on American soil, there was enormous discussion of the lessons of 9/11. But after the bagpipes stopped, and news coverage turned to other issues, perhaps the first lesson of that day seemed quickly forgotten: We cannot allow Afghanistan to become a terrorist stronghold and a staging ground for attacks on America.

If Washington seems to have forgotten Afghanistan, it is clear the Taliban and al Qaeda have not. Less than five years after American troops masterfully toppled the Taliban, the disastrous diversion in Iraq has allowed these radicals the chance to rise again. Time is running out to reverse an unfolding disaster in the war we were right to fight after 9/11.

Funded largely by a flourishing opium trade, a resurgent Taliban effectively controls entire swathes of southern Afghanistan. Roadside bomb attacks have more than doubled this year, and suicide attacks have more than tripled. Britain’s commander in Afghanistan recently said that “the intensity and ferocity of the fighting is far greater than in Iraq on a daily basis.”

Al Qaeda is again taking advantage: The recent plot to blow up U.S.-bound jets was reportedly masterminded by an al Qaeda affiliate operating from Afghanistan. The same killers who attacked us on 9/11 are still plotting against America–and they’re still holed up in Afghanistan. President Karzai put it simply: “The same enemies that blew up themselves in . . . the twin towers in America are still around.” And while President Bush frequently quotes Ayman al-Zawahiri, he hasn’t mentioned that on the fifth anniversary of 9/11 al Qaeda’s No. 2 described the situation in Afghanistan as “very good.”

When did denying al Qaeda a safe haven in Afghanistan cease to be an urgent American priority? Somehow, we ended up with seven times more troops in Iraq–which even the administration now admits had nothing to do with 9/11–than in Afghanistan, where the killers still roam free. Even as the president claimed we are on the offensive against terrorists, Gen. James Jones, the U.S. commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, made an urgent plea for more troops to fight the Taliban. President Karzai has also appealed for more troops and support, and on my trip to Afghanistan this year, he stressed to me the importance of a robust American troop presence. And on Sept. 11 this year, U.S. Col. Michael Harrison noted “more troops would be welcome” in the hunt for bin Laden and his henchmen.

Quite simply, we must change course–starting with the immediate deployment of at least 5,000 additional U.S. troops. That includes more special forces to defeat the Taliban, more civil affairs troops to bolster the promising Provisional Reconstruction Teams, more infantry to prevent Taliban infiltration from Pakistan, and more clandestine intelligence units to hunt al Qaeda on both sides of the border. That also means more predator drones to provide real-time intelligence, more helicopters and transport aircraft to allow rapid deployment, and more heavy combat equipment to overpower enemy forces.

We must also redouble our reconstruction efforts. The Taliban’s resurgence comes as no surprise when 40% of the population is unemployed and 90% lack regular electricity. As Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry recently said, “wherever the road ends, that’s where the Taliban starts.” That’s why our generals are asking for more reconstruction funds to win over the local population. Yet this administration has appropriated nearly four times more in reconstruction funds for Iraq than Afghanistan–and actually cut Afghan aid by 30% this year. We need to substantially increase development aid and take advantage of the improved security provided by additional troops to ensure that reconstruction efforts reach the remote villages where the Taliban finds support. We must ensure that the elected government in Kabul, helped by the U.S.–not the Taliban, helped by al Qaeda–rebuilds Afghanistan.

This is especially important to counter the opium trade, which increased 50% last year and now funds insurgents, warlords and terrorists world-wide. We must provide alternative livelihoods for opium farmers and spur the judicial reforms necessary to prevent drug lords from acting with impunity. We cannot–and should not–do this alone. Asked which of the 26 countries in the alliance were dragging their feet in Afghanistan, Gen. Jones replied, “All of them.” Where allies have pledged troops and assistance, they must follow through. But we must lead by example. That’s how you win hearts and minds, and show the world the true face of America–and that’s how you win the war on terror.

Finally, we must use economic leverage to ensure the Taliban no longer finds sanctuary and recruits in Pakistan. Last year we gave Pakistan only $300 million in economic support, about what we spend in a day in Iraq. We need to give more, in development funds earmarked for specific projects that help undermine radicals, and demand more in return from the Musharraf government. We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past. The U.S. must not cut and run from the real front line in the war on terror. We must recommit to victory in Afghanistan.

Newsweek also has a piece on Afghanistan today, “The Rise of Jihadistan,” that backs up John Kerry’s assessment and as Michelle Malkin (really), points out, Kerry’s warning is “worth considering.”

While surprisingly Malkin gets it, other right-wingnuts can seem to see past their juvenille, hollow claims that hold no water against John Kerry. Instead of seeing the truth for what it is, they twist the truth in lame attempts to attack Kerry.

Once again, I will point out here — Kerry is right: “The U.S. must not cut and run from the real front line in the war on terror. We must recommit to victory in Afghanistan.”

Kerry’s stance on Afghanistan is has been stressed recently in his speeches at Faneuil Hall and Howard University earlier this month and in an OP/ED in the Union Leader.

4 Responses to “John Kerry: Losing Afghanistan, We’re Not Adequately Fighting the War We Should Be Fighting”

  1. I love John Kerry. If we were more heavily staffed in Afghanistan, he’d say we need to be in Iraq. If we were in both, he’d say we should be in neither. When we weren’t in Iraq, he voted that we should be. When we got there, he complained that we should leave. This is not a stance. To condemn the current administration without a plan of his own shows cowardice. Stand up John, tell us your plan if you have one. THEN, let the chips fall where they may. Until that point, the left will see again in November that pure condemnation alone does nothing.

  2. In the spirit of true democracy let us keep these post free of personal attacks against anyone. Whatever Senator Kerry says is always based on fact and truth. The fact is that we have 20,000 US forces in Afghanistan and 147,000 forces in Iraq. That is why he says we should send more troops to Afghanistan to combat the rising threat of the Taliban. The Taliban have taken over the southern portion of Afghanistan. American forces are now attacked in Afghanistan by suicide bombers and IEDs which the terrorists are learning from insurgents in Iraq who use it on US forces there as well. The Al Qaida in Iraq now control, the Al Anbar, the western province of Iraq. American forces have seen more violence there in recent times. Al Anbar is now considered one of the most dangerous places in Iraq for an American soldier to be.

    Senator Kerry did not vote to go to war in Iraq instead he voted to give the president the authority if the president thought it was necessary to go to war as a last resort. President Bush at the time of the vote and the time leading up to it said he would give diplomacy a chance and would only go to war as a last resort. Senator Kerry took the president at his word. President Bush did not give diplomacy a chance. The president would not let inspectors continue their work of find WMDs. He rushed to go to war. Congress can only give the authority to a president to go to war; it cannot go to war, only the president can make that declaration. Republicans like to blame Sen. Kerry for the vote to give authority to the president but it was the president who actually went to war with Iraq not the Senator.

    Senator Kerry has a reasonable and doable plan to deal with the incompetence of this Administration in its handling of going to war with Iraq and its lack of a plan to deal with post-war Iraq. Senator Kerry is not a coward as has been suggested. He has bled for his country, while others chose repeated deferments from the Vietnam war. He has served his country nobly. He is a war hero who has the integrity to serve his nation again should he decide to run again for president. Senator Kerry has stood up for his ideals he has an excellent plan that can be found on johnkerry.com if you wish to read it. The left has not condemned the right; the democrats have a plan to win the war in Iraq which is why most polls show a 60% disapproval of how the president is handling the war in Iraq. Most Americans also believe that the president is leading the country on the wrong track. Democrats do not condemn the republicans we disagree, we dissent that is our patriotic duty as Americans. Democrats do not just criticize republicans we have plans for getting our country on the right track you can read those at the website dccc.org. Under this president we will lose the Iraq war, under the leadership of Senator Kerry we will win it.

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