I consider Sen. Joe Lieberman to be a good friend after having worked with both him and his staff in his successful 2006 Senate re-election campaign in Connecticut. We have written of our support for his domestic policy initiatives like controlling speculation in the energy futures market and his successful effort in getting Google to drop al Qaeda terrorist training videos. Just yesterday, we lauded both Lieberman and Senate Republican colleague Jonny Isakson of Georgia in getting the Senate to pass a $15,000 homebuyer tax credit program.
But in all friendships there are also times when we must respectfully disagree.
Today’s Wall Street Journal had an op ed by Senator Lieberman entitled: “Afghanistan Will Be a Quagmire for al Qaeda.” The tag line was”the war on terror will end once we've empowered the Muslim majority to stand up against extremists.”
Lieberman appears to be basing these platitudes on the results of the Surge strategy developed by General Petreaus that has been successful so far in reducing the violence in Iraq. He had vigorously supported the Surge strategy in Iraq despite criticism from the media and Senate colleagues and was vindicated. Now, the Obama Administration and Pentagon Defense Secretary Gates, the Joint staff and General Petreaus of CENTCOM want to develop a surge strategy for the big push in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan against al Qaeda.
Lieberman in his Wall Street Journal op ed cites several types of “surges” hopefully directed at achieving success in Afghanistan:
- First and most importantly, we need a surge in the strategic coherence of the war effort. As we learned in Iraq, success in counterinsurgency requires integrating military and civilian operations into a seamless and unified strategy. In Afghanistan, we do not have in place a nationwide, civil-military campaign plan to defeat the insurgency.
- Second, we need a surge in civilian capacity. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul needs to be transformed and expanded, with the necessary resources and the explicit direction to work side by side with the military at every level. In particular, the civilian presence must be ramped up outside our embassy -- at the provincial, district and village levels, embedding nonmilitary experts with new military units as they move in.
- Third, we need to help surge the Afghan war effort. This means expanding the Afghan army to 200,000 or more, and ensuring they are properly equipped, paid and mentored.
The U.S. needs to take tough action to combat the pervasive corruption that is destroying the Afghan government and fueling the insurgency. This requires a systemic response, not just threatening specific leaders on an ad hoc basis. Specifically, we must invest comprehensively in Afghan institutions, both from top-down and bottom-up.
- Fourth, we need a surge in our regional strategy. As many have observed, almost all of Afghanistan's neighbors are active in some way inside that country. Some of this activity is positive -- for instance, aid and investment -- but much of it is malign, providing support to insurgent groups. We must help "harden" Afghanistan by strengthening its institutions at both the national and local levels, empowering Afghans to stop their neighbors from using their country as a geopolitical chessboard.
The U.S. can help by beginning to explore the possibility of a bilateral defense pact with Kabul, which would include explicit security guarantees.
- Fifth, success in Afghanistan requires a sustained surge of American political commitment to the mission. Fortunately, and unlike Iraq, the Afghan war still commands bipartisan support in Congress and among the American people. But as more troops are deployed to Afghanistan and casualties rise, this consensus will be tested.
Indeed, there are already whispers on both the left and the right that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires that we should abandon any hope of nation-building there, additional forces sent there will only get bogged down in a quagmire.
Unfortunately, Sen. Lieberman presents a panglossian view of how we can defeat an elusive enemy in a theater in which corruption backed by vast hoards of drug money make it virtually impossible.
Here is our assessment of how daunting a task it will be for General Petreaus and NATO allies to succeed in Afghanistan without first taking the oxygen out of the corruption that bankrolls al Qaeda and the fanatical Taliban.
Muslims, especially the fundamentalists in Afghanistan, have never been transformed, meaning reformed, in more than 1400 years. Moreover, Afghanistan has historically broken the back of 'invaders,' whether Alexander the Great, the British in the 19th Century and Russians in the 20th Century. You may recall the billions spent on Charlie Wilson’s War in the 1980’s in Afghanistan that spawned Osama bin Laden of 9/11 infamy and Al Qaeda with the aid of our ally, the Saudis. We hope it is not our turn in to come a cropper in Afghanistan in the 21st Century.
Look what passes for leadership in Afghanistan. The US inserted as the Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, an ex-maitre de at a relative's Afghan restaurant in Washington, DC. Now he is thoroughly corrupted, sounds off periodically like a budding Islamist, and gets large sums from the drug lords, including his brother. As the New York Times noted last fall, Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali is a major heroin drug trafficker. Karzai lives a virtual prisoner in his fortress of a Presidential palace in Kabul rarely sallying forth without an armored convoy.
The current Pentagon proposed Afghan 'surge" of 30,000 US and NATO troops is likely one tenth of what would be required given the Taliban presence in the largely southern Pashtun heroin growing provinces of the country, presence in redoubts in adjacent areas of North West Pakistan and even Iranian Revolutionary Guards infiltration via the country’s Western borders.
Given recent news our military forces in Afghanistan can't even get our supplies into Afghanistan over the road from Pakistan without Taliban attacks destroying convoys. The irony is that now the U.S. military has to rely on transiting Russia to send so-called ‘non-lethal” supplies to our troops in Afghanistan. The most we can do in retaliation is using those armed Predators of the CIA to hunt down and kill Taliban leaders and supporters in Pakistan - mere pinpricks. Then you have Obama sending special envoys and 'intermediaries' engaged in behind the scenes ‘discussions’ with the enemy: Iranian annihilationists and even al Qaeda.
As Rachel Ehrenfeld author of the classic, Narco Terrorism, has written if you don't control the heroin trade that funds the Taliban and Al Qaeda at an estimated $300 million + a year, you won't get anywhere. Afghanistan is the heroin producer to the world. That vast drug cash hoard is oxygen for the jihad. Look what it cost the U.S. (billions) in Colombia to finally rein in FARC, who controlled the Cocaine trade, and had support from Latin America, left extremist regimes in both Ecuador and Venezuela. Further, we achieved 'victory' against the Narco-terrorists in Colombia where the Uribe government was a staunch ally committed to defending his country against the drug lords, FARC and the threats of Marxist dictator, Hugo Chavez,
So, Senator Lieberman, we don’t have a quagmire in Afghanistan, as much as we do a sand trap controlled by Muslim extremist drug lords in the world heroin trade. Can we develop a winning strategy to take away that oxygen? That is the ultimate question.
I would like to believe we could succeed in Afghanistan. However, with extremist Taliban control tightening in the southern provinces and daily threats to what passes for a corrupt central government in Kabul, the five ‘surges’ proposed by Senator Lieberman don’t have a prayer of succeeding. General Petreaus is one smart serving officer who deserves to end his distinguished military career with a major counter-insurgency victory. Afghanistan, many fear, may not be one of them. Where is the Afghan successor to the fabled Northern Alliance leader, Ahmed Shah Massoud,
“the lion of Panjir,” assassinated by Al Qaeda two days before 9/11? I haven’t read nor seen one emerging in Afghanistan. Perhaps there will not be one like him to emerge soon to lead a fractured ungovernable Afghanistan and quell both the rampant heroin trade and stifle the Taliban. Meanwhile, the Obama special envoys and ‘intermediaries’ seek a deal from our worst Islamic extremist enemies.