THE BLOG
10/12/2012 04:14 pm ET Updated Dec 12, 2012

Vice Presidential Debate Highlights Why Paul Ryan Is Clueless On The Afghan War and Foreign Policy

Paul Ryan should fire his national security adviser. After last night's debate, it's clear that he has a lot to learn when it comes to foreign policy -- which seems to be par for the course for the Romney campaign writ large. As an American voter, the thought of a Romney-Ryan administration terrifies me for the prospects of how they'd advocate America to the world. I fear a return to the "you're either with us or you're against us" attitude of the Bush years.

First, I must offer a couple of clarifications that any basic student of foreign policy can tell you and that Paul Ryan ought to have known. Russia gets a veto in the UN because they are a permanent member of the UN Security Council. No country can give another country a veto in the UN. Additionally, as a former intelligence officer of the CIA, I applaud Vice President Biden for acknowledging that situations like the attack in Libya are fluid, take time to analyze, and that the president and his team make policy based on constantly evolving assessments issued by the intelligence community. The Republican contention that the intelligence community and the president should not alter its policy to reflect the facts sets a dangerous condition for the intelligence community where under a Romney presidency they may fear offering fluid reporting, as they did during the Libya attacks -- which could delay critical decision making and endanger American lives. Moreover, the very politicization of a terrorist attack on American diplomats and officials is disgusting and shameful -- Vice President Biden stated it perfectly when he said the attack should have been an occasion to draw us together as a nation, not divide us on a patrician witch hunt. Congressmen Ryan and Issa ought to remember that the real enemy is Al-Qaeda, not the Obama administration.

Now, as to the whole war debate, as an Afghan War Veteran, I can unequivocally say that Paul Ryan hasn't a clue as to what is going on in Afghanistan. I thank him for acknowledging that RC-East is the most dangerous zone of the conflict -- I've been saying that ever since I got back from it in 2009 -- but it's been a mess since the Bush Administration redeployed critical recourses to the Iraq war. Moreover, the situation in RC-East is so complex that it could literally take decades of continued American combat troop and diplomatic involvement to sort out -- and that's only if the Afghans cooperate with our plans for peace in the East. Thus, Vice President Biden was correct to identify the Afghan Security Forces as the forces that ought take responsibility for securing Afghan territory -- otherwise our involvement in Afghanistan will become indefinite.

As for the "fighting seasons," yes, most of the attacks do occur in the warmer months, but large scale attacks also occur in the winter months. In fact, the Taliban usually picks the colder months to conduct large scale urban assaults for the sole purpose of continuing violence and thus exposing the continued deteriorating ability of the Afghan Government and ISAF to completely secure Afghan territory. On that point, I will grant that I disagreed with Vice President Biden's assertion that we will leave Afghanistan stable with some form of the Karzai government surviving long after our departure. I, like many other Afghan analysts, fear that our departure will lead to a return of the Afghan civil war circa the late 1990s.

But the most important point that neither man acknowledged is that under current American policy, American troops in the form of embedded combat advisers (the troops who have sadly been in the news for dying in "Green-on-Blue" attacks) and Special Forces will be in Afghanistan for at least another decade -- long after the "combat" troops have come home in 2014. All of the candidates ought to candidly acknowledge such and the fact that it means there will be additional American casualties and additional military expenses in a war that will be far from over. The fact that no candidate has stated our true policy in Afghanistan continues for another decade is extremely disappointing and a great disservice to the American people who are being led to believe that after 2014 our involvement in Afghanistan ends entirely.