As I spent the last weeks working and writing on national security, what jumped out at me over and over is that while I believe we are slowly, painfully forcing a better debate on Iraq, the war we began in Afghanistan after 9/11 has become kind of a forgotten war — even though it is the real epicenter of the terror threat. I was struck by how much in meeting after meeting I heard that Afghanistan was falling apart. But where’s the sense of urgency? I’ve tried to pull together that picture as best as I could — and a specific — no fooling around — get tough policy for Afghanistan to rescue this effort. I’m talking about it today at Howard University.
I don’t think there are any more serious issues to our security than what’s happening and not happening in Afghanistan, and what needs to happen — this isn’t a Jeremiad by any means, but I feel like if we don’t lay it out as clearly and adamantly as we can we’re going to look back and see a huge threat unaddressed while we were completely focused on Iraq. And it’s a threat we know all too well has real life and death consequences.
Right now everyone’s treating Afghanistan like a sideshow. The numbers tell the story. 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. You could get whiplash watching the Administration policy 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. Tragedy, scandal — and today? Silence. Talk about cut and run. You need to raise some hell about this.