Does this sound familiar?
“We have no strategic plan. We never had one.”
That’s how a senior US military commander described the war in Afghanistan to Washington Post reporter Karen DeYoung in her must-read front-page story Tuesday.
Another Pentagon official “only half-jokingly” referred to General David Petraeus’ “shadow government” of 200 military and civilian experts tasked with coming up with a comprehensive plan.
But instead of tough questioning of our Escalation Without a Plan in Afghanistan, we are on course to double our presence there by adding 20,000 to 30,000 more US troops. DeYoung writes that this strategy is designed to buy the Obama Administration time so it can devise our purpose for being there and what we hope to accomplish.
We don’t need the General’s shadow government. What will allow the Obama Administration to reengage the world and region in new and successful ways is to pursue regional diplomacy and targeted development, and a drawdown of our troops. We also need our legislators to begin speaking up for these non-military solutions.
Since my post last week arguing for a smarter strategy, I’ve tried to talk to many in Congress about the war. They have been hesitant to do so — with a few notable exceptions.
Senator Bernie Sanders told me, “It’s time for the new administration to reexamine our Afghanistan policies. I certainly don’t want to see Barack Obama caught in the kind of morass we experienced in Iraq under Bush.”
Congresswoman Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Vice Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, responded in an e-mail, “…What we urgently need is to reassess our war effort in Afghanistan and come up with a comprehensive strategy… and engage fully with countries that would benefit from a stabilized Afghanistan–like Pakistan, Iran, India, Russia, and China. In short, we need to strengthen our diplomatic efforts in this strategic region.”
Advocates for a drawdown of troops who are now meeting with legislators are also finding them reluctant to chart a different course. Most want to wait for President Obama to offer a new plan. But DeYoung writes that such a plan won’t come until April at the NATO summit in France. In the meantime, the majority of the 20,000 to 30,000 additional US troops probably will have arrived in Afghanistan. Isn’t that something our representatives — especially progressive leaders — should be speaking out against? Not to mention the fact that Tuesday’s excellent reporting by Walter Pincus on military base construction suggests that the US is settling in Afghanistan for the long haul.