Senate Democrats

Iraq War Has Exacted a High Cost on America’s National Security

Admiral Fallon’s testimony today before the Senate Armed Services Committee once again made clear the high costs that the Iraq War has exacted on America’s national security. President Bush’s failed strategy has taken focus and resources away from the threats we face in other areas of the world and strained our military almost to the breaking point. The Iraq War has caused us to neglect Afghanistan, which according to independent experts is faltering. In addition, Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is still the main threat to our homeland, as the NIE from July determined, and continues to plot attacks from its base in the Pakistan border region.  

As General Casey testified last week, our military has been stretched thin by six years of war. Military leaders have warned that this strained has degraded our military readiness, resulted in equipment shortfalls in the field and taken a tremendous toll on our military families. Instead of defending the President’s flawed strategy in Iraq, Bush Republicans should join with us to build a strategy that addresses the serious threats that Afghanistan, global terrorism and reduced military readiness continues to pose to our national security.

War in Iraq has taken focus and resources away from Afghanistan:

Admiral Fallon Said “Taliban Were Pretty Much Vanquished” in 2002 But U.S. Turned Its Focus to Iraq.

MR. SUAREZ: The terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan have recently increased in tempo. There have been suicide bombers, audacious daylight attacks on civilian areas of gathering — commerce, hotels. Why is the fight there so hard, after the Americans were said to have defeated their foe there?

ADM. FALLON: Well, back in 2001, early 2002, the Taliban were pretty much vanquished. And I wasn’t over there during the intervening years. But my sense of looking back is that we moved focus to Iraq, which was the priority from 2003 on, and the attention and the resources focused on a different place. [The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, 1/18/08]

Atlantic Council Study: NATO Is Not Winning in Afghanistan. “Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan… On the security side, a stalemate of sorts has taken hold. NATO and Afghan forces cannot be beaten by the insurgency or by the Taliban. Neither can our forces eliminate the Taliban by military means as long as they have sanctuary in Pakistan. Hence, the future of Afghanistan will be determined by progress or failure in the civil sector. However, civil sector reform is in serious trouble.” [Atlantic Council, “Saving Afghanistan: An Appeal for Urgent Action,” 1/30/08]

Atlantic Council Study: NATO Needs More Troops and Intelligence Assets to Improve Security. “NATO, as its commanders have repeatedly stressed, is short of troops in Afghanistan. Even though the Taliban cannot defeat U.S. or NATO forces, at least four maneuver battalions, additional helicopters and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets are needed to improve the security situation in Afghanistan.” [Atlantic Council, “Saving Afghanistan: An Appeal for Urgent Action,” 1/30/08]

Center for the Study of the Presidency: Mission to Stabilize Afghanistan Is Faltering. “The mission to stabilize Afghanistan is faltering… Despite a significant increase in the number of foreign troops and the amount of aid to Afghanistan since 2002, violence, insecurity, and opium production have risen dramatically as Afghan confidence in their government and its international partners falls.” [Center for the Study of the Presidency, 1/30/08]

  • U.N. Report: In 2007, Afghanistan Experienced Most Violence Since 2001. “Afghanistan is currently suffering its most violent year since the 2001 U.S.-led intervention, according to an internal United Nations report that sharply contrasts with recent upbeat appraisals by President Bush and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai. ‘The security situation in Afghanistan is assessed by most analysts as having deteriorated at a constant rate through 2007,’ said the report compiled by the Kabul office of the U.N. Department of Safety and Security. There were 525 security incidents — attacks by the Taliban and other violent groups, bombings, terrorism of other kinds, and abductions — every month during the first half of this year, up from an average of 425 incidents per month in 2006.” [McClatchy, 10/1/07]
  • Violence in Afghanistan Has Increased 30 Percent From 2006 to 2007. “Reporting to the U.N. Security Council, special representative for Afghanistan Tom Koenigs said while there was a dip in violence in the last two months, the number of violent incidents was still up 30 percent from last year. ‘The sad result is a significant increase in the numbers of civilian casualties — at least 1,200 have been killed since January this year,’ Koenigs said, noting the United Nations had recorded 606 roadside bombs and 133 suicide attacks, up from 88 suicide bombs by the same time last year.” [Reuters, 10/15/07]
  • Suicide Bombings in Afghanistan Have Surged Since 2001. “Suicide bombings, an Al Qaeda tactic, were never seen before 2001 in Afghanistan. Yet they jumped five-fold from 21 in 2005 to 139 in 2006, and they have increased by an additional 69 percent so far in 2007.” [Center for American Progress, “The Forgotten Front,” 11/07]
  • More Foreign Fighters Have Arrived in 2007 Than Any Time Since 2001 – Are More Violent Than Afghan Taliban. “The foreign fighters are not only bolstering the ranks of the insurgency. They are more violent, uncontrollable and extreme than even their locally bred allies, officials on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border warn…Their growing numbers point to the worsening problem of lawlessness in Pakistan’s tribal areas, which they use as a base to train alongside militants from Al Qaeda who have carried out terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Europe, according to Western diplomats. ‘We’ve seen an unprecedented level of reports of foreign-fighter involvement,’ said Maj. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux, deputy commander for security of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. ‘They’ll threaten people if they don’t provide meals and support.’ In interviews in southern and eastern Afghanistan, local officials and village elders also reported having seen more foreigners fighting alongside the Taliban than in any year since the American-led invasion in 2001.” [New York Times, 10/30/07]

Afghan Government Controls Just 30 Percent of Country – After Six Years of War, More Than Half of Afghanistan Is Still Under Local Tribal Control. “The Afghan government under President Hamid Karzai controls just 30 percent of the country, the top U.S. intelligence official said Wednesday. Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the resurgent Taliban controls 10 percent to 11 percent of the country and Karzai’s government controls 30 percent to 31 percent. But more than six years after the U.S. invasion to oust the Taliban and establish a stable central government, the majority of Afghanistan’s population remains under local tribal control, he said.” [Associated Press, 2/27/08]

Polls Show Downturn in Afghan People’s Trust in Government and International Community to Improve Security, Economy, Governance or Rule of Law. “Moreover, recent polls in Afghanistan reflect a downward turn in attitudes toward the ability of the Afghan government and the international community to improve those conditions the Afghan people identify as the most critical problems facing the country: insecurity, weak governance, widespread corruption, a poor economy and unemployment.” [Center for the Study of the Presidency, 1/30/08]

Pakistan border area serves as a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and Taliban operating in Afghanistan:  

Al-Qaeda and the Taliban Are Increasing Their Coordination Across Afghanistan-Pakistan Border. “Al-Qaeda, which has been rebuilding in safe havens in Pakistan for over a year, has taken a prominent role in a new effort by the Taliban and other radical organizations to coordinate their operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. ‘We are seeing an increase in cooperation between the (Afghan) insurgents as well as the terrorists led by al Qaeda. They are increasing in their coordination,’ said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez, the top commander of NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan. ‘They’re cross-fertilizing their tactics, techniques and procedures and also again getting resourcing mainly from al Qaeda, who is the central player in the terrorism equation,’ he told Pentagon reporters in a videolink from Afghanistan.” [Reuters, 2/26/08]

DNI McConnell Testified Pakistani Safehaven Is a Staging Area for Al-Qaida Operatives. “Al-Qa`ida has been able to retain a safehaven in Pakistan`s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) that provides the organization many of the advantages it once derived from its base across the border in Afghanistan, albeit on a smaller and less secure scale. The FATA serves as a staging area for al-Qa`ida`s attacks in support of the Taliban in Afghanistan as well as a location for training new terrorist operatives, for attacks in Pakistan, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the United States.” [Statement of Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell to Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 2/5/08

Taliban Operates from Safe Havens in Pakistan, Also Gets Recruits and Financial Support from Pakistan. “The Taliban has become increasingly strong in the past year with its sanctuaries in Pakistan and in the south and east of Afghanistan. It receives recruits and financial and military support through a Pakistani network. It also plans and trains for combat in Afghanistan just across the border in Pakistan.” [Center for American Progress, “The Forgotten Front,” 11/07

  • Taliban and Al-Qaeda Fighters Have Increasingly Crossed Into Afghanistan from Sanctuaries in Pakistan in Recent Months. “Beyond these wooded hills and ravines are the Pakistani sanctuaries for the Taliban and al Qaeda who’ve in recent months crossed, mostly at night, in growing numbers.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/07]  

Director of DIA Testified Pakistani Forces Are Not Trained or Equipped to Track Down on Tribal Areas – Will Take 3 to 5 Years to Address Those Deficiencies. “Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, the Defense Intelligence Agency director, told the committee at the same hearing that the Pakistan government is trying to crack down on the lawless tribal area along the Afghan border area where Taliban and al-Qaida are believed to be training, and from which they launch attacks in Afghanistan. But neither the Pakistani military nor the tribal Frontier Corps is trained or equipped to fight, he said. Maples said it would take three to five years to address those deficiencies and see a difference in their ability to fight effectively in the tribal areas. ‘Pakistani military operations in the (region) have not fundamentally damaged al-Qaida’s position in the region. The tribal areas remain largely ungovernable and, as such, they will continue to provide vital sanctuary to al-Qaida, the Taliban and regional extremism more broadly,’ Maples said.” [Associated Press, 2/27/08]

The global terrorist thread persists:

Global Terrorist Incidents Have Increased Dramatically Since 2001. “Between January 2001 and September 2001 there were 1,188 terrorist incidents around the world, including the three separate 9/11 events which have become infamous in the memory of Americans. Attacks within Israel alone accounted for 238 terrorist incidents, with Iraq and Afghanistan contributing four. Counting only those incidents attributed to Islamist extremist groups, there were 61 incidents globally with 40 occurring outside of Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan. The comparison with the same time period in 2006 is stark. Worldwide, there were 5,188 terrorist incidents, 1,437 excluding Israel, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Of those remaining incidents, 490 were attributed to Islamist terrorism, of which 92 were extraneous to the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel.” [American Security Project, “Are We Winning?,” September 2007]

NIE: Al-Qaeda Is Main Threat to U.S., Has Regenerated Key Elements of its Homeland Attack Capability. “Al-Qa’ida is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat to the Homeland, as its central leadership continues to plan high-impact plots, while pushing others in extremist Sunni communities to mimic its efforts and to supplement its capabilities. We assess the group has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability, including: a safehaven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership… As a result, we judge that the United States currently is in a heightened threat environment.” [National Intelligence Estimate, 7/17/07]

  • DNI McConnell Testified That Al-Qaeda Poses Significant Threat – Al-Qaeda Central Leadership in Pakistan Border Area Is its Most Dangerous Component. “Al-Qa`ida and its terrorist affiliates continue to pose significant threats to the United States at home and abroad, and al-Qa`ida`s central leadership based in the border area of Pakistan is its most dangerous component. Last July, we published a National Intelligence Estimate titled, ‘The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland,’ which assessed that al-Qa`ida`s central leadership in the past two years has been able to regenerate the core operational capabilities needed to conduct attacks in the Homeland.” [Statement of Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell to Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 2/5/08]
  • DNI McConnell Testified That Al-Qaida Continues to Plan Mass Casualty Attacks on the U.S. from Pakistani Safehaven. “Using the sanctuary in the border area of Pakistan, al-Qa`ida has been able to maintain a cadre of skilled lieutenants capable of directing the organization’s operations around the world. It has lost many of its senior operational planners over the years, but the group’s adaptable decision making process and bench of skilled operatives have enabled it to identify effective replacements… We assess that al-Qa`ida`s Homeland plotting is likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic, and infrastructure targets designed to produce mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the population.” [Statement of Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell to Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 2/5/08]

U.S. Intelligence Has Detected Signs of Al-Qaeda Surging in Afghanistan.  “American military and intelligence officials are detecting early signs that Al Qaeda may be increasing its activities in Afghanistan, perhaps even seeking to return to its former base of operations, a senior Defense Department official said Monday…The senior Defense Department official, aboard Mr. Gates’s plane, said, ‘We are seeing early indicators that there may be some stepped-up activity by Al Qaeda.’ No details were offered.” [New York Times, 12/4/07]

  • Osama Bin Laden Is Still At-Large After 2,366 Days on the Run Since September 11, 2001.

Military leaders warn long-term commitment in Iraq has taken a tremendous toll on our focus:

Admiral Mullen Said Military is Tired and Worn Thin by Wars. “The top uniformed military officer on Wednesday described a tired U.S. military force, worn thin by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and unlikely to come home in large numbers anytime soon. The assessment comes as President Bush decides whether to continue troop reductions in Iraq — possibly endangering fragile security gains made in recent months — or not, and risk straining ground forces further. ‘The well is deep, but it is not infinite,’ Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. ‘We must get Army deployments down to 12 months as soon as possible. People are tired.’” [Army Times/Associated Press, 2/8/08]

General Casey Said Six Years of War Has Left Our Army Out of Balance and Taken a Toll on Soldiers and Equipment. “I also said that the cumulative effects of the last six- plus years at war have left our Army out of balance, consumed by the current fight and unable to do the things we know we need to do to properly sustain our all-volunteer force and restore our flexibility for an uncertain future.…The harsh environments that we’re operating in, and the frequent deployments, are taking their toll on our soldiers and their equipment.” [General Casey’s Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, 2/26/08]

Secretary Geren Said Army Needs a Drawdown in Iraq to Reduce Dwell Time. “Well, we are consuming readiness now as quickly as we build it. And if we are unable to extend the dwell time, if the number of brigades doesn’t get down to a demand of 15 brigades for our Army, we are going to have a difficult time having sufficient dwell time to accomplish all the missions that we hope to accomplish when a soldier is home.” [Secretary Geren’s Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, 2/26/08]

General Conway Said Marines Could Not Sustain Long-Term Presence in Both Iraq and Afghanistan. “The Marine Corps cannot endure a long-term presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the service’s top officer said. Service commitments in Iraq have stretched Marines’ deployment-to-dwell-time ratio to about equal time, a metric Commandant Gen. James Conway has long said he wants to improve to take on more expeditionary training and increase Marines’ time with families. ‘We cannot sustain 1-to-1 forever, and our Corps is not big enough to do both,’ he told reporters in Washington on Feb. 1. ‘We can’t have one foot in Afghanistan and one foot in Iraq. I believe that would be — an analogy would be having one foot in the canoe and one foot on the bank. You can’t be there long.’” [Marine Corps Times, 2/4/08]

Strain of war has diminished military readiness:

Pentagon Said Iraq Is Straining the Military and Limiting Readiness. “A classified Pentagon assessment concludes that long battlefield tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with persistent terrorist activity and other threats, have prevented the U.S. military from improving its ability to respond to any new crisis, The Associated Press has learned. Despite security gains in Iraq, there is still a "significant" risk that the strained U.S. military cannot quickly and fully respond to another outbreak elsewhere in the world, according to the report.” [Associated Press, 2/9/08]

General Casey Said Demands on the Army Exceed the Sustainable Supply of Soldiers.  “‘The demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply,’ the Army chief of staff, Gen. George Casey, said last week. ‘Right now we have in place deployment and mobilization policies that allow us to meet the current demands. If the demands don’t go down over time, it will become increasingly difficult for us to provide the trained and ready forces’ for other missions.”  [Associated Press, 8/20/07

Admiral Fallon and Admiral Mullen Worried About Having Enough Forces to Confront Threats Outside Iraq and Afghanistan. “Admiral Fallon was said by some officers to believe that only by giving the Iraqi government a clearer sense that the American troop commitment was limited would the Iraqis take steps aimed at achieving reconciliation. He also worries about having enough forces in reserve to handle contingencies outside Iraq and in Afghanistan. Adm. Michael G. Mullen, the current chief of naval operations, who takes over as chairman of the Joint Chiefs next month, has also raised concerns about force levels, though he also cautions against a withdrawal before the current strategy is allowed to work.” [New York Times, 9/14/07]

Report Concluded Guard and Reserves Lack Trained, Ready Forces to Respond to Attacks on the Homeland. “The commission’s 400-page report concludes that the nation ‘does not have sufficient trained, ready forces available’ to respond to a chemical, biological or nuclear weapons incident, ‘an appalling gap that places the nation and its citizens at greater risk.’ ‘Right now we don’t have the forces we need, we don’t have them trained, we don’t have the equipment,’ commission Chairman Arnold Punaro said in an interview with The Associated Press. ‘Even though there is a lot going on in this area, we need to do a lot more. … There’s a lot of things in the pipeline, but in the world we live in — you’re either ready or you’re not.’” [Associated Press, 1/31/08]

Protracted war has lead to equipment shortfall in theater:

Iraq War Has Taken Devastating Toll on Equipment. “In addition, the toll on equipment has been devastating, and if nothing else, the nature of the war in Iraq has resulted in overused Army equipment. Replacing vehicles and weapons will cost many tens of billions of dollars. The net result is a force that is unprepared to meet the challenges posed by our enemies…The strain on the force, particularly on the Army and the Marines, has been well-documented. If they don’t get killed or wounded first, soldiers can now expect to serve 15 months before coming home for a rest, only to be shipped back to Iraq.” [MSNBC, 2/19/08]

General Casey Said Army Needs More Equipment. “The Army and Marine Corps need nearly $7 billion more than President Bush requested in next year’s budget, a significant shortfall at a time when ground forces are carrying the brunt of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to budget documents… In his letter to lawmakers, Casey said the Army’s $3.9 billion list focuses on equipment for its National Guard, units of civilians who train part time and can be called to active duty with the regular military. Items include fire trucks, GPS technology, small arms, night-vision goggles and water purification systems.” [Associated Press, 2/15/08]

U.S. Military Facing Serious Equipment Shortfall In Theater and At Home. “Protracted conflicts also dramatically increase equipment operational usage rates, resulting in reduced useful life and increasing repair and replacement requirements. The Army and Marines have a number of equipment-related challenges to rectify which may require significant funding and management efforts. Both the Army and Marines are providing their units with additional equipment over and above their peacetime authorized levels, which is placing significant equipment demands on both services. [CRS Report, 6/15/07]

CRS Warned the Surge Would Make Serious Equipment Shortages Worse. “The unforecasted requirement to fully equip these “surge” forces will likely cause additional strain on already depleted equipment stocks, with some suggesting that specialized items such as electronic jammers to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs), M117 Armored Security Vehicles, and Mine Resistant Ambush-Proof (MRAP) vehicles might be in particularly short supply.” [CRS Report, 6/15/07]

Extended deployment have taken a tremendous toll on military families:

Secretary Geren Said 48% of Soldiers Deploying Left Behind Children Age 2 or Younger, Putting Enormous Strain on Families. “Over half of our soldiers are married, with over 700,000 children in Army families. Today, nearly half — 48 percent of all soldiers who go to theater leave behind children age 2 or under. When a married soldier deploys, he or she leaves a single-parent household behind, and all the challenges of that family dynamic. When a single parent deploys, he or she leaves behind a child in the care of others.” [Secretary Geren’s Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, 2/26/08]

General Conway Said Military Families Are Tired and Need Help. “We do have a significant issue with our families. Simply put, they are proud of their contributions to this war, but they’re tired. We owe it to those families to put our family service programs onto a wartime footing.” [Commandant Conway’s Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, 2/28/08]