Sen. Lieberman believes we can make Afghanistan a ‘quagmire’ for Al Qaeda.
by Jerry Gordon, The Iconoclast, Feb. 6, 2009I consider Sen. Joe Lieberman to be a good friend having worked with both he and his staff in his successful 2006 Senate re-election campaign in Connecticut. We have written of our support for his domestic policy initiatives like controlling speculation in the energy futures market and his successful effort in getting Google to drop al Qaeda terrorist training videos.
Just yesterday, we lauded both Lieberman and Senate Republican colleague Jonny Isakson of Georgia in getting the Senate to pass a $15,000 homebuyer tax credit program.
But in all friendships there are also times when we must respectfully disagree.
Today’s Wall Street Journal had an op ed by Senator Lieberman entitled: “Afghanistan Will Be a Quagmire for al Qaeda.” The tag line was ”the war on terror will end once we’ve empowered the Muslim majority to stand up against extremists.”
Lieberman appears to be basing these platitudes on the results of the Surge strategy developed by General Petreaus that was successful in Iraq. He had vigorously supported the Surge strategy in Iraq despite criticism from the media and Senate colleagues and was vindicated. Now, the Obama Administration and Pentagon Defense Secretary Gates, the Joint staff and General Petreaus of CENTCOM want to develop a surge strategy for the big push in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan against al Qaeda.
Lieberman in his Wall Street Journal op ed cites several types of “surges” hopefully directed at achieving success in Afghanistan:
- First and most importantly, we need a surge in the strategic coherence of the war effort. As we learned in Iraq, success in counterinsurgency requires integrating military and civilian operations into a seamless and unified strategy. In Afghanistan, we do not have in place a nationwide, civil-military campaign plan to defeat the insurgency.
- Second, we need a surge in civilian capacity. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul needs to be transformed and expanded, with the necessary resources and the explicit direction to work side by side with the military at every level. In particular, the civilian presence must be ramped up outside our embassy — at the provincial, district and village levels, embedding nonmilitary experts with new military units as they move in.
- Third, we need to help surge the Afghan war effort. This means expanding the Afghan army to 200,000 or more, and ensuring they are properly equipped, paid and mentored.
The U.S. needs to take tough action to combat the pervasive corruption that is destroying the Afghan government and fueling the insurgency. This requires a systemic response, not just threatening specific leaders on an ad hoc basis. Specifically, we must invest comprehensively in Afghan institutions, both from top-down and bottom-up.
- Fourth, we need a surge in our regional strategy. As many have observed, almost all of Afghanistan’s neighbors are active in some way inside that country. Some of this activity is positive — for instance, aid and investment — but much of it is malign, providing support to insurgent groups. We must help “harden” Afghanistan by strengthening its institutions at both the national and local levels, empowering Afghans to stop their neighbors from using their country as a geopolitical chessboard.
The U.S. can help by beginning to explore the possibility of a bilateral defense pact with Kabul, which would include explicit security guarantees.
- Fifth, success in Afghanistan requires a sustained surge of American political commitment to the mission. Fortunately, and unlike Iraq, the Afghan war still commands bipartisan support in Congress and among the American people. But as more troops are deployed to Afghanistan and casualties rise, this consensus will be tested.
Indeed, there are already whispers on both the left and the right that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires that we should abandon any hope of nation-building there, additional forces sent there will only get bogged down in a quagmire.
Unfortunately, Sen. Lieberman presents a panglossian view of how we can defeat an elusive enemy in a theater in which corruption backed by vast hoards of drug money make it virtually impossible. (Continue Reading this Article)