President Obama has not decided whether he will support General McChrystal’s request for a major troop build-up in Afghanistan. Part of the President’s hesitancy shows the influence of informed and politically influential voices who urge caution. It reflects the increasing unease among influential House members and Senators about General McChrystal’s recommendations. Vice President Biden has forthrightly raised doubts about an increased commitment of troops. The obviously fraudulent and fundamentally flawed Afghanistan election adds to policy maker’s concerns.
A growing number of legislators believe that our strategy has to be thought through before we add significant troop resources to Afghanistan. That has opened up a debate on what U.S. strategy ought to be.
Senator Levin (D-Mi), the respected Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, weighed in with his September 11 speech on the Senate floor. He asserted that the U.S. has “lost the initiative” in the war against Afghanistan’s insurgents. Levin is recognized as the leading Senate Democrat on military matters. He has a deserved reputation for preparing with great care. He is recognized as one of the Senate’s most deliberative members. Levin was blunt. He told the President not to send more American combat troops to Afghanistan until the U.S. accomplishes the speeding up of training and equipping more Afghan security forces.
Senator Kerry (D-Ma), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, followed two weeks later with a thoughtful op-ed in the Wall St. Journal. Kerry called for testing the “underlying assumptions” in Afganistan. He questioned whether a full blown counter insurgency is necessary. He asked how does our policy avoid or prevent destablization in Pakistan where chaos can lead to putting nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists. Finally Kerry pointed out that McChrystal offered neither a timetable nor an exit strategy in the General’s call for a large troop increase. Kerry’s thinking adds his weight as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee to those who recognize care and caution are necessary in our Afghanistan policy.
That prudence contrasts with the reckless comments of the Senate and House Republican leadership. In their continuing ignorance of the U.S. Constituion, Republican leaders McConnell, Boehner, Kyl and Cantor continue to believe that recommendations to the President, as our Commander-in-Chief, must be ratified quickly and without serious discussion of Genral McChrystal’s recommendations. How mistaken they are!
House members have added their voice to the debate. Fifty-seven members, including seven Republicans, wrote President Obama. They called for caution by citing the judgment of the retired Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Krulak. Krulak asserted that our troops and equipment is being “run ragged.” Krulak believes that NATO’s sustained support is unlikely. That will lead to an even greater burden on American forces.
These House members, led by Representative McGovern (D-Ma) and Jones (R-NC), come from 20 different states, include 46 senior members and 11 first or second termers. Their letter is signed by Members from every legislative House Committee.
A turning point in the debate stems from the well documented patterns of fraud that have been established since the Afghan election. Recentlly I received a detailed report from Nasrine Gross who directs Kabultec in Kabul, Afghanistan. Ms. Gross’s organization teaches literary classes to women and men in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Her classes now cover math, health, family issues and political education. She supported Dr. Abdullah in his campaign to replace President Karzai.
Ms. Gross has written a detailed report documenting the election fraud. Among the many items she reported is that from the first “day after the election, droves of people from each province of Afghanistan have been coming to Kabul to present evidence of fraud, report their eyewitness and meet with Dr. Abdullah (President Karzai’s principal opponent) regarding a course of action to redress the wrong that has been done to them. Sometimes they come in tens, but most often they come in hundreds. Usually, they hold press conferences. Dr. Abdullah keeps asking those disgruntled voters to keep calm, to wait for the ICC (Election Complaints Commission) to complete its worth, to have faith.” That is a powerfully moving report of the quest for fairness and some semblance of democracy in Afghanistan.
Ms. Gross’s field work corroborates further the continuing reports documenting voter fraud in Afghanistan articulated so well by Peter Galbraith in his then capacity as a UN offical before he was fired for raising the fraud issues. Ms. Gross’s report adds fresh data from the field. The question must be asked again will there be “good enough governance” in Afghanistan, a question raised in testimony before Senator Kerry’s Committee.
As our Afghanistan policy unfolds, the power of citizens such as Nadine Gross, will help many in the Congress speak out against a policy of escalation and recklessness. Their voice of conscience and concern will hopefully stir a goodly number of House members and Senators to constructive action.