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Should We Rethink Afghanistan War Strategy?

5 years ago
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A veteran Republican lawmaker is imploring President Barack Obama to establish a bipartisan study group to rethink the Afghanistan war strategy.

In a letter to the president last week, Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia said, "We are nine years into our nation's longest running war and the American people and their elected representatives do not have a clear sense of what we are aiming to achieve."

Wolf, who is serving his 15th term in Congress, urged Obama to sign an executive order that would create an Afghanistan-Pakistan Study Group to assess the ongoing war strategy.

In March 2006, Wolf helped create the Iraq Study Group, a panel of 10 defense and policy experts from both sides of the aisle who examined the war effort. The group was co-sponsored by the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Center for the Study of the Presidency in Washington, as well as the Baker Public Policy Institute at Rice University in Houston.

Frank WolfWhile the study group's recommendations were never fully embraced by the Bush administration, the panel managed to change the debate, said Lee Hamilton, the former Democratic Indiana congressman and co-chair of the Iraq Study Group. Despite President George W. Bush's initial hesitation toward the group, "his statements became much more realistic about the situation in Iraq" after it made its recommendations, Hamilton said.

"It gave President Bush a sense of just how badly his policies were faring," said Kori Schake, who was defense strategy director for the National Security Council during Bush's first term and is now fellow at the Hoover Institution, a public policy think-tank at Stanford University.

"It seems to me that the more debate we have about why we're fighting the war, what the way to win it is, and what the cost and consequences of [it] are, the better off we are," she said.

Lawrence Kolb, senior fellow at the American Center for Progress, thinks the timing is wrong for an Afghanistan-Pakistan study group. Kolb, a former assistant secretary of defense, noted that the 2006 study group formed before Bush's troop surge took shape. At the time, no one quite knew what strategic direction the war would take, so forming a study group seemed like a good idea.

In contrast, Obama's strategy is clear: American troops will begin leaving Afghanistan by next summer. But, Kolb said, if Obama reduces troops to lower-than-expected numbers or he decides to push back the withdrawal date by a couple of years, "then you might see a [study] group." Otherwise, it's simply too early to know whether the administration's war strategy is working, he said.

But David Abshire, president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency, a non-partisan policy and education organization, notes that the time Obama has to prove his strategy is already running out.

"People on the right, left and center are now talking against the war," said Abshire, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO. Critics of the war want to see things change now, not in a couple of years.

Vice President Joe Biden has announced that a formal internal assessment of the strategy is scheduled for December.

Several national security strategists agree that an Afghanistan-Pakistan study group could be a good thing, but the results of such a group may or may not help.

Hamilton, who is director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, noted that just because a study group forms does not mean anyone is going to listen to it.

"A group of this sort does not instantly have credibility," Hamilton said. "You establish that, in part, through its membership, but I think, even more important, you establish it by the seriousness and competence that you show in going about your work."

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What? War Strategy. There is only one strategy and one only. Pull all our troops and equipment out, leaving not a single soldier or piece of in tact equiptment. Stop, funding the corupt excuses of so called, Afghan governments,with taxpayers billions. Start pulling out NOW. The only winners are the Military Industrial Complex And their bought and paid for politicans and bureaucrates. Pocketing millions over the bodies of our troops and innocent Iraqs.

September 12 2010 at 3:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When will our professional politicians let our military do their job and just keep their damn mouths shut regarding military strategy. They are failing to do their jobs right. Where do they get the idea they can tell our military how to do their jobs?????

August 17 2010 at 9:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As long as politicians are telling our military how to run a war, we will never win another war.

August 17 2010 at 6:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The strategy is already out and it is clear. In December the review takes place. The military will have to demonstrate whether they have achieved the goals they claimed they could achieve during the review that was conducted last year. If they have, it goes on. If they haven't, they are getting this fiasco hung around their necks and we back out of there. Is it too soon to drop the "military can do no wrong" fantasy and start holding the leadership accountable? It is. Everyone is accountable. If they haven't performed no one wants to hear excuses. We will change the policy, recognizing that a military solution replete with nation-building is simply not doable in such a fragmented area of the world. We have to focus on real threats to our security (collapsed economy, rising Chinese hegemony, energy, climate change, etc) any of which could threaten our national existence. Afghanistan, with no air force, navy, or organized army presents threats but they are not existential.

August 16 2010 at 2:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

WHAT STRATEGY 2 Billion per day. Momey wasted and going too politicans and the military, both Afghan and American.

YES. LEAVE NOW ! No,waiting hours,days or months. N O W ! !

No more, American lives. No more American wealth. N O W ! !

August 16 2010 at 1:47 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Afghanistan broke the Soviet Union because a member of our congress supplieed them with stinger missles.

August 16 2010 at 1:44 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Afghanistan broke the Soviet Union and will most certainly break us too. This war for profit is now coasting us 2 billions per day; you heard me right, 2 billions per day as our infrastructure goes to ****.

August 16 2010 at 12:57 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

This war needs to go on or else, how will the Military Industrial Complex remain in the black ?

August 16 2010 at 12:55 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

We do need to rethink our defense polices for the entire world. We need to remove our troops from Europe unless they are willing to pay all the expenses to keep our bases and troops there as they are longer needed in Germany or for the defense of Europe, we need to remove our troops from S. Korea by the end of 2012 or require that S. Korea and Japan pay for our expenses to remain there and also to require Japan to build it's defense forces so they assist in their own defense. We also need to get out of Iraq by the end of 2011 totally (the Iran siuation leaves a small number of our troops to tempting a target for them) or have their government start paying for our expenses on any support/combat troops we leave there as well.

In Afghanistan, we need to step up to the plate with a scorched earth policy to weaken the Taliban until they agree to join the existing government.
The biggest problem remains the militant Muslims throughout the world that are hell bent on spreading the influence and domination of all religions and all countries to submit to their fire brand extreme Muslism teachings. I believe that to be an impossible task to do, so the greater problem that needs to be addressed is not having a Committee re-exam our strategy in Afghanistan, but to exam how we are going to deal with the militant Muslims throughout the world - peace or war.

August 16 2010 at 12:43 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
How Ya Doin'?

We should have one goal in Afghanistan, Kill Osama Bin Laden!

August 16 2010 at 12:43 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to How Ya Doin'?'s comment

That's going to be pretty much impossible since Bin Laden hasn't been in Afghanistan since the war started.

August 16 2010 at 12:52 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Another military expert. Why don't you go too Afghanistan and find him
and kill him.
Using your special training and military expertise.It should be a cake walk.
Good Luck.

August 16 2010 at 2:08 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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