This is a live blog from the front porch at Sen. Dick Durbin’s office in Springfield, Illinois. See the last paragraph for details about the location.
Cross-posted at DailyKos. http://www.dailykos.com/story/…
It’s not just me. Lots of people are questioning the premises for expending our troops’ lives, plus hundreds of billion of dollars, in Afghanistan.
The Washington Post and ABC News released results of a poll of Americans last week.
To question #26, All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war in Afghanistan was worth fighting, or not? 51% responded that it was not worth fighting.
To question #27, Do you think the number of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan should be (increased), (decreased), or kept about the same?, 45% said they should be decreased. For contrast, only 29% said troops should be decreased, when polled on January 6, 2009.
I’ve been actively questioning the basis for Sen. Durbin’s militaristic posture on Afghanistan. I’ve had an extended exchange of email with his chief policy advisor in his office in the Hart Senate Office Building.
Mr. Policy has described Sen. Durbin’s stance thusly:
“We know that the Taliban want to regain control of Afghanistan. We know that if we allow them to regain power, they are likely again to impose total control over the country and to provide protection to al Qaeda, giving al Qaeda valuable space to develop, train for, and try to implement further attacks against the United States.” [emphasis added by the diarist]
Those are some very specific predictions, there. That’s one heckuva crystal ball. And I’d like to see what data are going in which result in output like this.
I’ve asked Mr. Policy for transparent, verifiable, publicly available sources for informing and shaping Sen. Durbin’s opinion and for the very specific predictions above. I’ve asked Mr. Policy to show me primary source material that supports his posture.
And I’ve been provided with NOTHING of any substance.
Here’s the little I’ve been given:
“Senator Durbin did not get his position on Afghanistan from ‘think tanks.’ He reached his conclusions as a result of his own interactions with experts and officials and his own time in Afghanistan.”
However, if you are truly interested in exploring academic or think-tank arguments for the war in Afghanistan, I’m sure you can find many on the Internet. You might also find some on the Administration’s websites (White House, Defense, and perhaps State).
So, I’m being told to GUESS what Sen. Durbin is using to justify the occupation of Afghanistan, the casualties, and the enormous expense.
That’s just a tad fishy, back where I grew up.
What does Al Qaeda need Afghanistan for? Can’t AQ just as easily plot attacks against the West from impenetrable areas of the so-called Federally Adminstered Tribal Areas in Pakistan where they are operating right now? or from East Africa? or elsewhere? Both Gen. Petraeus and Sec. Clinton have stated clearly that AQ basically isn’t even in Afghan any longer. So, we’re in Afghanistan, closing the barn door after the horses are already out. If AQ mounts another attack, it’ll come from a completely different direction. That’s been my reasoning, at least.
Then on August 21, on the Friday News Roundup on The Diane Rehm Show on NPR, Nancy Youssef, Pentagon correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers was one of the panelists. (She’s been in Iraq and Afghanistan more than any congress critters, for sure.) She responded to a caller thusly:
I think Michael asked a very smart question. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the theory was if you build a stable state then it won’t be a place for terrorism. But the truth is that Al Qaeda has evolved since 2001 and it doesn’t need a state anymore the way it did. That is, the next attack could come from Europe, from Somalia, from Yemen, and I think what Michael is ultimately asking is, Are we fighting the last war or, and should we be fighting the next one? [diarist’s transcription and added emphasis]
My thoughts, exactly.
I shared the opinion offered below by Prof. John Mueller from his article in Foreign Affairs titled “How Dangerous Are The Taliban”, with Mr. Policy:
President Barack Obama insists that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is about “making sure that al Qaeda cannot attack the U.S. homeland and U.S. interests and our allies” or “project violence against” American citizens. The reasoning is that if the Taliban win in Afghanistan, al Qaeda will once again be able to set up shop there to carry out its dirty work. As the president puts it, Afghanistan would “again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.” This argument is constantly repeated but rarely examined; given the costs and risks associated with the Obama administration’s plans for the region, it is time such statements be given the scrutiny they deserve.
Multiple sources, including Lawrence Wright’s book The Looming Tower, make clear that the Taliban was a reluctant host to al Qaeda in the 1990s and felt betrayed when the terrorist group repeatedly violated agreements to refrain from issuing inflammatory statements and fomenting violence abroad. Then the al Qaeda-sponsored 9/11 attacks — which the Taliban had nothing to do with — led to the toppling of the Taliban’s regime. Given the Taliban’s limited interest in issues outside the “AfPak” region, if they came to power again now, they would be highly unlikely to host provocative terrorist groups whose actions could lead to another outside intervention. And even if al Qaeda were able to relocate to Afghanistan after a Taliban victory there, it would still have to operate under the same siege situation it presently enjoys in what Obama calls its “safe haven” in Pakistan. [emphasis added by diarist]
And, Mr. Policy (you guessed it) just dismissed this without any explanation.
So, Sen. Durbin is slacking on explaining things, while our troops and their families are bearing the burden of battle.
It’s not hard to get a sense of just how difficult are our troops’ daily missions. Just read some battle reports:
Or look at some photos:
Or watch a video:
Then there are the former CIA station chiefs.
Milton Bearden was station chief in Islamabad during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The final paragraph of his article “Obama’s War” in Foreign Affairs reads:
Every foreign power to enter Afghanistan in the last 2,500 years has faced these challenges in one form or another. All failed to overcome them. The likelihood of the United States breaking this pattern is slight. It is becoming clear, however, that the Obama administration at least understands the odds it faces.
Given the bleak picture for our troops which he paints in the article, I take that last sentence to mean the same thing as, The Titanic has struck the iceberg, and the captain is informed of the situation.
Robert Grenier is another former CIA station chief in Islamabad. He’s also famously the Director of the Counterterrorism Center who was fired by the Bush government for not going along with rendition and torture. In a videoed interview he did for Rethink Afghanistan Part 6, he says:
I don’t think that a major conventional military force – which, whatever it’s strategic intent, is going to look to a local people like a colonizing occupation army – is going to succeed in the long run in Afghanistan. [transcript by the diarist]
If you’re even slightly interested in Afghanistan, you will definitely want to click the above link for Rethink Afghanistan and watch these vids, if you haven’t seen them yet.
Graham Fuller is a former CIA station chief in Kabul and a former vice-chair of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council. He contributed an article titled “Obama’s Policies Making Situation Worse in Afghanistan and Pakistan” at Huffington Post, which concludes:
Al-Qaida’s threat no longer emanates from the caves of the borderlands, but from its symbolism that has long since metastasized to other activists of the Muslim world. Meanwhile, the Pashtuns will fight on for a major national voice in Afghanistan. But few Pashtuns on either side of the border will long maintain a radical and international jihadi perspective once the incitement of the U.S. presence is gone. Nobody on either side of the border really wants it.
What can be done must be consonant with the political culture. Let non-military and neutral international organizations, free of geopolitical taint, take over the binding of Afghan wounds and the building of state structures.
If the past eight years had shown ongoing success, perhaps an alternative case for U.S. policies could be made. But the evidence on the ground demonstrates only continued deterioration and darkening of the prognosis. Will we have more of the same? Or will there be a U.S. recognition that the American presence has now become more the problem than the solution? We do not hear that debate. [emphasis added by the diarist]
Yep, we don’t hear the debate, at least in the United States. It’s definitely being heard in the U.K. though, as is well-described in Meteor Blades’ diary at dkos. Could one reason be that the Brits aren’t contracting out 242,657 jobs (mostly foreign and third country nationals in the areas of operation) to War For Profit companies like our government is doing? thus the consequences of constant, endless war aren’t being effectively concealed from the British public the way it is from the American public?
And still, Sen. Durbin and his policy chief won’t give me the details on how it is they concluded that our occupation of Afghan makes us safer. That sort of cuts off the debate very effectively, no?
It’s obvious that Sen. Durbin DOES NOT WANT THE DEBATE.
And I figure he knows damned well that he doesn’t have facts that will support his militaristic Afghan stance. Who would want to go into a debate without having the ducks to put into a row?
Sen. Durbin, you’re a fine fellow. You’re smart, capable, energetic, and you get no free pass from me. You’re not just w-a-a-a-a-y out on a limb on Afghanistan; it looks as if you’ve fallen out of the tree and landed on your noggin.
If you think this constant, endless deployment to Afghanistan and the costs of same keeps us safe, then SHOW ME how it does this. If you want our troops and their families to shoulder the BURDEN OF BATTLE, then YOU get to shoulder the BURDEN OF PROOF.
As I wrote in recent diaries, Sen. Dick Durbin has an office in Springfield, Illinois, in the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. It’s a beautiful little park full of historic Lincoln-era homes, owned by the Dept. of the Interior, and managed by the National Park Service. Sen. Durbin has rented office space in the George Shutt House since Sen. Durbin was a member of the House of Representatives. As is shown on the bottom of his Senate web site home page, the address is 525 S. 8th St, Springfield IL 62703.
I’m blogging away, right now, on the right side of the porch as you face it.