ISW Hosts Discussion at Newseum about the Future of the Afghan War
Washington, D.C. - On Thursday, June 30th, the Institute for the Study of War hosted a panel discussion on the future of the Afghan war and the President's recent decision on the withdrawal of troops. ISW&'s panelists included Senator John McCain, Senator Joseph Lieberman, and General Jack Keane. Michael O';Hanlon of the Brookings Institute moderated the discussion. Video of the entire event and a transcript are available on our website.
The speakers explored a wide range of concerns including the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, the U.S. relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and President Obama's most recent pronouncement to withdraw 10,000 troops by the end of this year and the remaining 23,000 surge troops by September of 2012.
General Keane, former Vice Chief of the Staff of the Army, held that President Obama's withdrawal decision was ill-advised. "I think there's a certain recklessness to itbecause what it does is it's going to force us to do more against the Haqqani Network with considerably less. And that's going to drive our casualties up, make no mistake about it"
When asked about the challenge of our duplicitous partnership with Pakistan, General Keane spoke frankly saying, "The truth is the ISI aids and abets the sanctuaries in Pakistan that the Afghan [insurgents] operate out of. They provide training for them. They provide resources for them. And they provide intelligence for them. From those sanctuaries every single day Afghan fighters come into Afghanistan and kill and maim us. There's a direct relationship with ISI's complicity and the deaths of American soldiers and the catastrophic wounding of those soldiers."
Citing the domestic challenges to the support for the current US strategy in Afghanistan and the pace of withdrawal, Senator McCain noted that, ";There is an intense war weariness, coupled with the traditional tension in the Republican party between the Eisenhower Republicans and the Taft Republicans, the internationalists and the isolationists."
When an audience member asked about the meaning of victory, Senator Lieberman responded that "...what winning constitutes is...having the Afghans self-govern and self-defend without a radical Islamist government tyrannizing them and their neighbors."
While the panelists were discouraged by the White House's strategy and isolationist pressures in Congress, they were encouraged by the new additions to the effort including Lt. General John Allen who is expected to be confirmed as successor to General Petraeus, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who has come out of retirement to become the next ambassador to Afghanistan. Ambassador Crocker was instrumental in the successes in Iraq during the surge in 2007.
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