12.01.09

Comment On The President’s Plan For Afghanistan

[The President Tuesday afternoon met at the White House with congressional leaders, including Senator Patrick Leahy, to outline and discuss his plan for Afghanistan.  Leahy (D-Vt.) chairs the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on The State Department and Foreign Operations and is the third-most-senior member of the Senate.]

"The President inherited a faltering strategy in Afghanistan that has failed so massively that at this point there are no good answers.  He deserves great credit for putting our policy through a tough and thorough review and for listening to other perspectives, and he deserves full and fair consideration of his plan by Congress and the American people.

"We went into Afghanistan to get Osama Bin Laden, who attacked us on 9-11.  We all supported that.  When we had him cornered the decision was made to take some of our best CIA and Special Forces out to go into Iraq – a country that posed a threat to Iran but not to us, a country that had nothing to do with 9-11, and a country that, at that time, had no Al Qaeda organization.

"Our focus in Afghanistan unfortunately shifted, and our attention over the years has ebbed and flowed.  We then were told we must stay in Afghanistan to stop the poppy trade.  Since then the price of heroin has not gone up, the supply is still constant and in some places the price is even down.  Then it was said that we had to help them establish democracy, leading to Hamid Karzai stealing an election and the CIA putting his brother on the payroll.  The civil government, including the police, is among the most corrupt in the world.

"For me it boils down to whether or not there is a convincing answer to this question:  What can realistically be achieved, and is it worth putting our soldiers’ lives on the line, at a million dollars a troop, as our economy continues to struggle here at home?  Sizeable deployments of soldiers from Vermont and other states are only the latest compelling reasons for reaching deep to find the right answer this time.

"At this point I am not convinced that the hole dug earlier by a thousand bad decisions can be paved over at all."

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