US Should Leverage Momentum Now in Afghanistan Talks


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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Richard Lugar (R-IN) supports substantial drawdown of US troops in Afghanistan. He shared his views on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley:

CANDY CROWLEY: You have repeatedly said that the administration doesn’t seem to have a clear cut vision of victory when it comes to Afghanistan, hinting that it’s now about time that we begin to withdraw, at least. And that this is probably further evidence. We now have the head of al Qaeda, the whole reason we went to Afghanistan was that it was a safe place for people like bin Laden.
When you see that we are going to begin a drawdown in July, what size of a drawdown are you looking for? What would satisfy you at this point?
RICHARD LUGAR: Well, I would look, first of all, as to whether our strategy of getting Afghan forces in preparation to defend Afghan cities and provinces is coming along. The Soviet Union tried this and had quite a bit of success for quite a while but never quite brought it off. And, as a matter of fact, at the end of the day, the people they had trained and were loyal to them deserted and went to either the Taliban or elsewhere.
Now in our situation, we had a test this week in Kandahar. The Taliban simply going to attack, they did. The Afghan forces apparently resisted successfully their attack in Kandahar, very important.
My point in the hearings we had this week was to pick up on words of one of our fine testifiers that — that perhaps 10,000 to 25,000 troops after 18 months or so would satisfy our ability to fight terror, that is, with intelligence backing, with very resourceful people that can make attacks in various areas. We might be able to get the job done for a great deal less money.

My friend James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation finds this to be a “stupid” view — but I agree with Lugar and not Jim. Carafano thinks that it would be wrong-headed (my preferred word to his use of “dumb” or “stupid”) to reduce America’s military footprint while we are “winning.”
We’ve been here many times before in that we had an advantage, eventually squandered.
I do believe that the killing of bin Laden and perhaps other key al Qaeda leadership in the coming weeks and months establishes momentum and gives the US a bit of an edge — to be deployed in negotiations, along the lines suggested by the Century Foundation International Task Force on Afghanistan, of which I have been strongly supportive and working to disseminate.
The problem with Carafano’s formulation is that America would never negotiate the way he frames the problem. He wants total victory, vanquishing the enemy. That is not going to happen to the Taliban. The group will not fold up and go home — they are home, and we are not.
If the US had been in a weak position, then that would have been less advantageous in negotiations. If the US is perceived to be in a stronger position today, then better to use that leverage today — before time levels out things again or even begins to tilt against the advantages enjoyed by the US today.
— Steve Clemons


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