"The surge of troops is needed to provide us with time and space to further build our own security forces," stated the Ambassador of Afghanistan to the U.S. Said T. Jawad at my Center on Politics & Foreign Relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies last week in Washington, D.C.
Speaking to a crowd of 100 guests in a speech that was carried live on C-SPAN, the Ambassador pointed out that American troops are in his country "to have safe streets in the United States and Europe" and that it is "mutually beneficial for the U.S. and Afghans." He went on to say that "not being in Afghanistan is equally dangerous."
It is easy to understand and remember the original reason and rationale for going into Afghanistan. We were responding to the vicious and unprovoked attacks on us on 9/11. We overthrew the repressive Taliban government and attacked the Al Qaeda training camps and tried to wipe out the Al Qaeda leadership. The U.S. intervention was overwhelmingly supported by the American public and by most of our allies around the world. We all assumed it was a successful operation so why eight years later are we sending a "surge" of troops back to this country to defeat an enemy we supposedly defeated years ago? Why is the Taliban resurfacing? Why hasn't Al Qaeda been destroyed? Why is it on the day the President of the United States receives the Nobel Peace Prize that the first of the American troops are getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan? There are many inconsistencies in the whole affair that will soon see more than 100, 000 U.S. troops in this mountainous nation.
Ambassador Jawad makes our surge seem plausible when he states: "The mission is clear. This is America's war to disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat Al Qaeda; and NATO's battle for regional and global security, as well as Afghanistan's struggle for survival. You are in Afghanistan primarily because of 9/11 and to prevent terrorist attacks on U.S. and European soil. You are in the mountains of Afghanistan to defend the streets of the United States and Europe, to protect humanity from terror and tyranny and assist us in the process."
President Obama, in his speech at West Point presenting the "surge" of American forces to Afghanistan was quick to point out that U.S. troops would start to come home only eighteen months after being sent. The president who pointed out how important it was to be in Afghanistan also pointed out how important it was to start leaving that country. The Presidents' speech was full of contradictions that have been well discussed.
From former President George W. Bush to General McChrystal testifying before Congress this week. The U.S. goal has been to "bring justice to Osama bin Laden or bring Osama bin Laden to justice." We have been looking for the mastermind of the most terrible terrorist attack in our history and cannot find him. We don't even know what country he is in.
When I asked the Ambassador where Osama bin Laden was he replied, "If Osama bi Laden were in Afghanistan he would have been found. He is not in a cave. He is mostly in Pakistan."
So the question I would ask is if the terrorist we are trying to capture is not even in the country where we will soon have over 100, 000 troops why not send them to where we think Osama is actually living. While the ambassador spoke of improving relations with Pakistan when he stated " We are deepening our relationship with this government" I am not confident that American policy towards Pakistan makes much sense these days. Why all this concentration on Afghanistan if Al Qaeda and Taliban forces just cross the border into Pakistan to escape capture.
And, as was also brought up in the question and answer period if Al Qaeda is more a movement and ideology than boots on the ground then why are we sending a "surge" of troops to Afghanistan. Al Qaeda could pick up and move to other chaotic parts of the world like Somalia and plan attacks from that location. As was also pointed out many of the 9/11 attackers worked in the U.S. and Europe when planning the horrendous attack.
Ambassador Jawad feels "We pushed the Taliban into Pakistan and into the countryside and we didn't stay focused on Afghanistan. If we had stayed focused we would not now need U.S. troops again."
When Obama says our troops will be out very quickly Ambassador Jawad and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of Stae are indicating that the presidents' views will be guided more by conditions on the ground in Afghanistan in 2011. As Ambassador Jawad commented at our conference "In five years we should be able to take responsibility for protecting Afghanistan." Five years is much longer than eighteen months. Obviously there are some contradictions between what the President of the United States wants and what the Afghanistan government wants.
Ambassador Jawad talked about how we can "further Afghanize security and development". I was reminded of Vietnamizing a previous war by a former American president.
Ambassador Jawad was forthright and appreciative of American and NATO support of his war torn nation in his talk at Johns Hopkins. He spoke eloquently by saying "It is time for all of us to act with perseverance and patience, and to stand together as partners for our just cause."
The cause may seem just but the "surge" seems flawed. And if the enemy continues to have safe havens next door in Pakistan what good will extra troops do in Afghanistan? Will Americans be in Afghanistan for eighteen months, five years or longer training the Afghans.
What is success in Afghanistan for the United States? Ambassador Jawad defines success for Afghanistan as: "Success is to prevent the return of Al Qaeda and the Taliban and to have successful Afghan institutions."
How does President Obama define success for America in Afghanistan? So far, we all seem very confused by the new "surge" and what will be a success for the United States. The Obama administration needs to do a better job of defining our overall goal and mission in Afghanistan and explaining exactly why Americans are being asked to fight and die in this far away country.
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