Over the weekend, Sen. John Kerry provided some covering fire for President Obama's dithering about his strategy for Afghanistan, telling CBS News that:
"I don't see how President Obama can make a decision about the committing of our additional forces or even the further fulfillment of our mission that's here today without an adequate government in place or knowledge about what that government's going to be."
Although he reportedly does not support Vice President Biden's counterterrorism strategy, Kerry also argued that troops alone are not the answer:
"Counting the numbers of troops is not going to define our success here . . . There is no military success ultimately to Afghanistan. The Afghans themselves are going to define what happens here and we have to convince ourselves that we have a strategy in place that empowers them to do that and that is realistic in what our expectations are from them and on what schedule."
It seems that Kerry has joined the ranks of Democrats who were for properly resourcing the war in Afghanistan before they were against it. In a passionate 2006 speech at Howard University, Kerry took the Bush administration to task for its focus on Iraq instead of Afghanistan, saying:
Neither can the Administration pretend that the war in Afghanistan is over or that the peace has been secured. The truth is, we are slipping dangerously backwards by the day.
The central front in the war on terror is still in Afghanistan, but this Administration treats it like a sideshow. When did denying al Qaeda a terrorist stronghold in Afghanistan stop being an urgent American priority? How did we end up with seven times more troops in Iraq -- which even the Administration now admits had nothing to do with 9/11 -- than in Afghanistan, where the killers still roam free? Why is the Administration sending thousands more American troops into the crossfire of a civil war in Iraq but we can't find any more troops to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan?
You could get whiplash watching the Administration policy on Afghanistan change from day to day. On Sunday, asked which of the 26 countries in the alliance were dragging their feet in Afghanistan, NATO's top commander General James Jones, a four-star general and former commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, replied, "All of them." Tuesday, Secretary Rice said we'll "pay for it" if Afghanistan again devolves into a terrorist stronghold. But just yesterday the Administration refused to heed its own warnings and refused to send the troops the commanders on the ground said we needed. That is both a tragedy and a scandal. And today? Silence.
The Administration's Afghanistan policy defines cut and run. Cut and run while the Taliban-led insurgency is running amok across entire regions of the country. Cut and run while Osama bin Laden and his henchmen hide and plot in a lawless no-man's land. Cut and run even as we learn from Pakistani intelligence that the mastermind of the most recent attempt to blow up American airliners was an al Qaeda leader operating from Afghanistan. That's right - the same killers who attacked us on 9/11 are still plotting attacks against America and they're still holed up in Afghanistan.
We need a new policy - the one the president promised when we went into Afghanistan in the first place. Where NATO allies have pledged troops and assistance to Afghanistan, they must follow through. But the United States must lead by example by sending in at least five thousand additional American troops. More elite Special Forces troops, the best counter-insurgency units in the world; more civil affairs forces; and more experienced intelligence units. More predator drones to find the enemy, more helicopters to allow rapid deployments to confront them, and more heavy combat equipment to make sure we can crush the terrorists. And more reconstruction money so that the elected government in Kabul, helped by the United States, not the Taliban helped by al Qaeda, rebuilds the new Afghanistan.
That's how you win the hearts and minds of the local population, that's how you win a war on terror, that's how you show the world the true face of America.
Note that to Kerry, President Bush's supposed refusal to send the troops his commanders on the ground requested is "both a tragedy and a scandal." But now the shoe is on the other foot -- President Obama has all of the time in the world to make a decision, and by the way, despite what the commanders tell you, the number of troops isn't really that important.