Soft-spoken Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) may have been the last questioner of this morning's hearings on Iraq, but he ended up being a highlight of the hearings, deftly making his points on "opportunity costs" and the increasing demands of Afghanistan against a flummoxed Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Unable to make any sort of cogent point to rebut Bayh's intimations, Crocker ineptly attempted to raise Osama bin Laden as a spectre of fear, telling Bayh, "I noted in my testimony that Osama bin Laden fairly recently referred to Iraq as the perfect base for al Qaeda and it is a reminder that for al Qaeda, having a safe base on Arab soil is extremely important today."
Bayh's response: "I appreciate your responses. And I would only caution us to not take our marching orders from Osama bin Laden."
BAYH: The question of opportunity costs was raised and in the intelligence world, at least for the foreseeable future, they tell us that we are much more likely to be subject to a terrorist strike emanating from Afghanistan or possibly the tribal regions of Pakistan than we are Iraq. And yet we are currently spending five times as much in Iraq as we are in Afghanistan on a monthly basis. We have five times as many troops stationed in Iraq as we do in Afghanistan currently. How do we -- how do you square that, when the threat currently is greater in terms of a terrorist strike from one place and yet we're devoting five times of the amount of resources and troops to a different place. Some might look at it and argue that our resources are being misallocated.
CROCKER: I would just make a couple of observations on that, Senator. And again...although...As you know, because you visited me, I am the former Ambassador to Pakistan. I am...not...really in a position to speak authoritatively there about conditions there, but again, as you know, the circumstances in Pakistan are such that it is not going to be a question of U.S. troops in Pakistan. So, there are some -- well, the al Qaeda threat out of that border area is indeed significant. It is -- there is not an equivalency, I think, in assessing, you know, --
BAYH: The Afghanistan and Pakistan are subjects for another day but since this is all tied up in the global effort against extremism and terror, as you know, things have not been going as well as we would hope in Afghanistan. And it is true we're not going to have troops in Pakistan. Still, our resources are finite and they do have an impact. Some might look at this and say why are we devoting five times the amount of resources to a place that at this time is not the principal threat?
CROCKER: In part, Senator, to be sure that it doesn't become that. I noted in my testimony that Osama bin Laden fairly recently referred to Iraq as the perfect base for al Qaeda and it is a reminder that for al Qaeda, having a safe base on Arab soil is extremely important today. They got close to that in '06.
BAYH: They apparently have one now in the tribal areas of Pakistan. In, any event, Ambassador, I appreciate your responses. And I would only caution us to not take our marching orders from Osama bin Laden. And it might occur to some that he says these things because he wants us to respond to them in a predictable way and we should not do that for him.