Monday, September 25, 2006

Kerry Weighs In

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry (you may recall, he served in Vietnam) has an opinion piece in today's Opinion Journal, critiquing the failure of Bush Administration policy in Afghanistan. From Mr. Kerry's vantage point, the recent surge in Taliban attacks, calls for more western troop deployments and the underfunding of reconstruction efforts are evidence of a failed strategy. In his words, we are "losing Afghanistan," and must recommit to victory in that country.

Kerry's approach to military analysis is apparently influenced by The New York Times. Like the Times, Senator Kerry (or, more likely the staffer who ghost-wrote the op-ed) cherry picks his "facts" carefully for maximum effect. Mr. Kerry wants his readers to believe that Afghanistan is going to hell in a handbasket, thanks to the feckless policies of the man who defeated him in the 2004 Presidential election. Admittedly, the situation in Afghanistan has grown more serious over the past year, but contrary to the assertions of Mr. Kerry and Newsweek magazine (which has a cover story on Afghanistan this week), the battle is far from lost, and there is reason for continued optimism.

Consider this grim assessment from Senator Kerry:

"Funded largely by a flourishing opium trade, a resurgent Taliban effectively controls entire swathes of southern Afghanistan. Roadside bomb attacks have more than doubled this year, and suicide attacks have more than tripled. Britain's commander in Afghanistan recently said that "the intensity and ferocity of the fighting is far greater than in Iraq on a daily basis."

Mr. Kerry doesn't define the term "effectively controls," but he insinuates that the Taliban is essentially back in control of much of Afghanistan. That is grossly inaccurate. True, the numbers of Taliban and Al Qaida-sponsored attacks have increased significantly over the past year, but that trend is a bit misleading, since roughly 90% of the attacks occur in southern and eastern Afghanistan--areas that have traditionally been Taliban strongholds. Additionally, even at today's current, "elevated" levels, Afghanistan has never recorded more than 700 insurgent attacks in a month--roughly the equivalent of four days' worth of terrorist activity in Iraq. Moreover, cumulative totals for September are expected to be about 15-20% low the peak level of August, when roughly 700 attacks occurred. In other words, recent NATO operations (like Operation Mountain Lion) are having the desired effect, although more work remains to be done. Clearly, you won't find that type of balanced assessment in Kerry's op-ed.

Nor does the Senator explore other reasons for the upswing in violence--namely, a switch to the type of "international" effort he suggested during his failed presidential bid. You may recall that overall responsibility for the Afghan mission was turned over to NATO last year. In the months that followed, many of NATO contingents were less-than-aggressive in pursuing terrorists, adopting a "garrison" strategy that minimizes casualties. That approach gave the Taliban an added breather, allowing them to re-group and expand their operational base. The good news is that the terrorists still die in large numbers when they elect to stand and fight. A recent increase in suicide bombings is indicative of a shift to tactics that have some measure of success. In small unit operations, Taliban fighters are still hopelessly outled and outclassed by NATO forces, and they can't maintain their territorial gains in the face of superior forces.

Mr. Kerry also dodges the central question of how NATO can be prodded into meeting its obligations in Afghanistan. He quotes General James Jones, the current Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, who recently observed that all 26 members of the alliance have been dragging their feet in supplying more troops and resources for the fight. That reality would seem to undercut Mr. Kerry's 2004 assertion that the U.S. needed to engage the world community in the war on terror, and forge stronger alliances. As we're seeing in Afghanistan, some of our NATO partners are willing to fight to the last American or Afghan in the battle against the Taliban and Al Qaida, but have problems with sending more of their own troops--especially if those forces might have to venture outside a secure garrison. So much for the internationalist approach.

The Senator is on firmer ground in advocating an increase in aid to Afghanistan, but once again, he ignores the issue of how much the U.S. should pay, and how much our NATO allies should pony up. If Afghanistan is truly a coalition effort--and it's supposed to be just that--then we need more Euros along with additional dollars. And how do we make that happen? Once again, Mr. Kerry is short on answers.


Paul Coyle said...

Kerry is running again and his staff is pumping out crap on everything under the sun and every position on everything so that he can later say that he was for or against anything as he desires.

Why, you might ask? It is because it is what he does.

Tom Grey said...

I wish you could have added that, 2 years after Bush declared Darfur a genocide, the international community has still failed to do so.

Sudan was examined and "passed" the global test -- no genocide!

Just like Kerry says he wanted. G. Clooney should be asked about this aspect of international cooperation, too, as well as the Amnesty and HRW positions on "genocide", or lack thereof.

Curmudgeon said...

NYT, please.

The Times is a London based newspaper of some standing, that reports news in a relatively factual manner.

The New York Times [NYT] is not, and does not.

augurwell said...


Concerning the Afghan situation, I recall that General James L. Jones, Nato Commander, detailed in a report recently that NATO had 85% of it's Expeditionary Unit deployed into the Afghan and he was spurring the concerned countries to get the other 15% into the show and that this other 15% was mainly logistical in nature and involved supply and attack helicopters.

He also said, and was backed up by President Karzai of Afghanistan, that the violence is on an up-swing because NATO and the Afghan National Army are going into regions where the Taliban are concentrated, taking the fight to the enemy, so to speak, which would mean that there would be actual fighting going on.

It is said that where the roads end in this underdeveloped war-torn country is where the Taliban begin and we have been building roads and engaging the enemy and that 4 million people have returned to their homes since the Taliban were defeated.

All this opium (40% of the Afghan's revenue) is smuggled to the eastern European countries and the proceeds end up funding the criminals and the Taliban that we are fighting. I read a report from some one from Iran who worked with an International Health Agency, I don't recall which one but they stated that 17% of Iranians are addicted to hard drugs because the situation in Iran is so hopeless, 17% ! This is not good and it clearly shows that the mullahs of Iran do not know how to support their own people. If 17%
of the people who lived next door to me were heroin addicts I think an intervention would be in order and mandatory detox as well, Now add to this that the mullahs are trying to get nuclear devices to play with and I would think that the New York Times would have plenty of good material to work with that people would be interested to learn about. I for one have not bought their $5 - 6.00 weekend paper for about eight years now.

I don't have a very clear understanding about what John Kerry is speaking about? One day it is about the war being a bad idea then the next day we are not fighting it hard enough and the day after it's about what ever he can dream up to discredit the opposition. I wonder if there could be a way to unite the centre, so to speak, of the main political parties in the United States and come up with a way to marginalize the extreme right and left. This next election in '08 is going to be very interesting. I hope the American People will remain united behind the Republicans to get the freedoms really rolling across the world. - The world, though in war is in a much better condition than the stagnation we had seen for the past twenty years or more. I find that there is more hope in the people from the middle east in general.

PS I've yet to comprehend what on earth the agenda of the NYT etc. is, they seem like a bunch of confused idiots who go out to lunch at about 10:30 and drink too much and then go and write some drivel just to confuse everybody. (Maybe having lost the Cold War, and their fashionable to be self hating anti-Americanism leaves them with only their impotent rage and their false intelligentsia. God knows they're not doing much that is helpful, the examples you outline about the cherry picking of what is wrong with no sense of balance in the offing really points to a major flaw in their thinking. Politics is suppose to make the country better not worse and the little people who can not see beyond partisan politics are a danger to our way of life besides being of small intellectual stature.

Is it possible to launch civil cases against some of these idiots in the press for being treasonable during war-time? You know, just tie them up in court, find some way to prove they are abusing my human rights by leaking stories that are harming the country. Just an idea.