Let Us Talk

July 20, 2008

Obama: Situation in Afghanistan is “Precarious” and “Urgent.” Is America Losing The Fight?

 Senator Obama says the situation in Afghanistan is “precarious” and “urgent.”  In an interview broadcast Sunday during his trip to Afghanistan, Obama said the U.S. needs to start planning now to send in more troops. He has called for an additional one to two brigades — or about 7,000 troops — to be sent to Afghanistan to help counter a Taliban that is rising again and supress rising violence.

Obama said that Afghanistan has to be the central focus in the fight against terrorists.

He said the Bush administration allowed itself to be distracted by a “war of choice” but now is the time to correct the mistake.

President Bush’s critics have long contended that the Iraq war has diminished America’s effort in Afghanistan, which the administration has denied, but an examination of how the policy unfolded within the administration reveals a deep divide over how to proceed in Afghanistan and a series of decisions that at times seemed to downgrade it to an afterthought as Iraq unraveled.

Statements from the White House, including from the president, in support of Afghanistan were positive, but behind them was a halting, sometimes reluctant commitment to solving Afghanistan’s many problems, according to dozens of interviews in the United States, at NATO headquarters in Brussels and in Kabul, the Afghan capital.

At critical moments in the fight for Afghanistan, the Bush administration diverted scarce intelligence and reconstruction resources to Iraq, including elite C.I.A. teams and Special Forces units involved in the search for terrorists. As sophisticated Predator spy planes rolled off assembly lines in the United States, they were shipped to Iraq, undercutting the search for Taliban and terrorist leaders, according to senior military and intelligence officials.

When it came to reconstruction, big goals were announced, big projects identified. Yet in the year Mr. Bush promised a “Marshall Plan” for Afghanistan, the country received less assistance per capita than did post-conflict Bosnia and Kosovo, or even desperately poor Haiti, according to a RAND Corporation study. Washington has spent an average of $3.4 billion a year reconstructing Afghanistan, less than half of what it has spent in Iraq, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The White House contends that the troop level in Afghanistan was increased when needed. But a senior American commander said that even as the military force grew last year, he was surprised to discover that “I could count on the fingers of one or two hands the number of U.S. government agricultural experts” in Afghanistan, where 80 percent of the economy is agricultural. A $300 million project authorized by Congress for small businesses was never financed.

Because of George Bush’s mismanagement and Russia’s before that, with their country demolished, Afghans have no confidence in any American President or any foreigner doing anything to help them — we have lost their trust.  Very sad indeed.

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