Conservatives Claim Credit for a Strategy they Opposed for Years
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg
It is quite odd to see conservatives celebrating how Barack Obama stood up to his base and adopted the Afghanistan strategy they have advocated all along. Bill Kristol is clearly pleased. Bob Kagan praises the president for standing up against those who wanted a minimalist approach. Christian Brose writes about the left coming around. And Kori Schake essentially implies that Obama's plan was originally the McCain plan.
One problem with this story. When progressives including Barack Obama, John Kerry and Joe Biden as early as 2002 were warning about the dangers of neglecting Afghanistan, conservatives were focused on Iraq and essentially treating Afghanistan like a backwater. We can have a serious discussion on Afghanistan and I think the folks at Shadow Government have been making some very smart and interesting contributions. But for them to somehow declare victory now and praise Obama for taking their advice is patently absurd. The history bears this out quite clearly. Conservatives were on the wrong side of this argument for years while progressives saw it coming.
Robert Kagan an Bill Kristol: "the endgame seems to be in sight in Afghanistan.”
Joe Biden: “It’s simple: the very same conditions that enabled the Taliban to come to power in the mid-1990s are rapidly emerging again…Unless we take a serious look at our policy, I greatly fear we may be setting the stage for a tragic replay of recent Afghan history.”
Joe Biden: “With our attention focused on Iraq, we run the risk of overlooking the alarming deterioration of security in Afghanistan.”
Howard Dean: “We must follow through on our commitments in Afghanistan to prevent that troubled land from ever again serving as a base for terrorism.”
John McCain: “There has been a rise in al Qaeda activity along the border. There has been some increase in U.S. casualties. I am concerned about it, but I'm not as concerned as I am about Iraq today, obviously, or I'd be talking about Afghanistan. But I believe that if Karzai can make the progress that he is making, that -- in the long term, we may muddle through in Afghanistan.”
Bill Kristol: “The battles of Afghanistan and Iraq have been won decisively and honorably.”
John Kerry: "And Iraq is not even the center of the focus of the war on terror. The center is Afghanistan, where, incidentally, there were more Americans killed last year than the year before; where the opium production is 75 percent of the world's opium production; where 40 to 60 percent of the economy of Afghanistan is based on opium; where the elections have been postponed three times.”
John McCain: "I’d say, first of all, the facts on the ground are we went to Afghanistan and we prevailed there."
Center for American Progress: “Up to two active brigades – approximately 20,000 troops – would be sent to bolster US and NATO efforts in Afghanistan and support counterterrorist operations in Africa and Asia. In Afghanistan, more troops are urgently needed to beat back the resurging Taliban forces and to maintain security throughout the country. If NATO is unwilling to send more troops, the United States must pick up the load.”
John Kerry: “We will never be as safe as we should be if Iraq continues to distract us from the most important war we must win - the war on Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and the terrorists that are resurfacing even in Afghanistan.”
John McCain: "it was in Afghanistan, as well, there were many people who predicted that Afghanistan would not be a success. So far, it's a remarkable success.”
John Kerry: "The central front in the war on terror is still in Afghanistan, but this Administration treats it like a sideshow. When did denying al Qaeda a terrorist stronghold in Afghanistan stop being an urgent American priority? How did we end 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? Why is the Administration sending thousands more American troops into the crossfire of a civil war in Iraq but we can’t find any more troops to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan?”
Max Boot: What should the U.S. do? Sending more troops isn’t in the cards. The coalition troop presence in Afghanistan—20,000 U.S. troops and 20,000 NATO soldiers—is already at an all-time high, and no one has soldiers to spare. Instead of sending more GIs, we should send more greenbacks. U.S. financial assistance to Afghanistan has never been adequate.
Barack Obama: “As President, I would deploy at least two additional brigades to Afghanistan to re-enforce our counter-terrorism operations and support NATO's efforts against the Taliban. As we step up our commitment, our European friends must do the same, and without the burdensome restrictions that have hampered NATO's efforts. We must also put more of an Afghan face on security by improving the training and equipping of the Afghan Army and Police, and including Afghan soldiers in U.S. and NATO operations.”
Center for American Progress: “The United States should increase troop levels by approximately 20,000 by redeploying troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, shifting the military strategy fully to a counterinsurgency framework, reducing civilian casualties, strengthening the Afghan National Army, and unifying NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and the United States’ separate Operation Enduring Freedom under one NATO command. All of these actions must be coordinated with civilian actors and integrated with other aspects of a counterinsurgency strategy.”
Harry Reid: “It is a travesty that Osama bin Laden remains at large nearly six years after the 9/11 attacks and appears to have found new sanctuary to operate freely in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions. The Bush Administration and most Congressional Republicans would rather stubbornly stick with a flawed strategy and fight a war that senior military leaders say cannot be won militarily, than adapt to fighting the enemy who attacked us nearly six years ago. It is essential that we dedicate our resources and attention to Al Qaeda and the real threat it poses.”
Joe Biden: “The next President will have to rally America and the world to ‘fight them over there unless we want to fight them over here.’ The ‘over there’ is not, as President Bush has claimed, Iraq, but rather the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Harry Reid: "We've been so focused on Iraq, and we all know Afghanistan has not received the attention and resources it needs...We are where we are, but not where we should be. After 9/11, we spent a little time here and left."