Senate Democrats

Seven Years Later: President Bush Continues To Ignore The Growing Threat In Afghanistan

Today, President Bush discussed his plan to keep more than 140,000 American troops tied down in Iraq while Al Qaeda and the Taliban gain strength in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  By most accounts the troop reductions will do little to relieve the strain on the military, and will not provide close to enough troops to combat the rising terrorist threat emerging in Afghanistan. This week, Bob Woodward revealed how President Bush ignored his military advisors in pursuing his failed strategy in Iraq. Now it seems the President is once again refusing to listen to military commanders as they raise the alarm about the growing Taliban and Al-Qaeda threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Bush Administration continues to ignore the emerging Taliban threat

President Bush Announced Troop Levels Would Remain Roughly The Same In Iraq, And Sufficient Additional Troops Would Not Be Going to Afghanistan……. President Bush called for keeping roughly the same number of U.S. forces in Iraq through the end of the year and pull about 8,000 troops home by February, a drawdown that’s both slower and smaller than long anticipated. One Marine battalion, numbering about 1,000 troops, will go home on schedule in November and not be replaced. An Army brigade of between 3,500 and 4,000 troops will leave in February. Accompanying that combat drawdown will be the withdrawal of about 3,400 support forces over next several months. He announced that a Marine battalion that had been scheduled to go to Iraq in November would go to Afghanistan instead, and that that would be followed by one Army combat brigade. [AP, 9/8/08]

……..Even Though Admiral Mullen Said He Would Like to Recommend Further Troop Reductions in Iraq to Send to Afghanistan. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen noted recent progress in Iraq, saying “the security has improved remarkably.” But when asked about the possibility of lower troop levels there and sending more troops to Afghanistan, he said it’s too soon to make any decisions. Military leaders in Washington and Iraq will continue evaluating improvements based on conditions on the ground, he said. “If we are able to sustain this kind of improvement in security, I’d have expectations that this fall I’d be able to make recommendations to President Bush that we can [draw down troops in Iraq],” Mullen said. “It would depend on how conditions continue to evolve.” [Newshour with Jim Lehrer, 7/22/08] 

According to a June Pentagon Report, Military Experts Expressed Alarm Over the Deteriorating Situation in Afghanistan. Military experts in their report to Congress wrote “a weak Afghan government, struggling economy, massive increases in illegal narcotics production, corruption, growing attacks by insurgents and an increase in civilian casualties, contrasts with significant challenges ahead. The report, which reviews the war from 2001 through April 10, 2008, offered a bleak assessment of a conflict that commanders think requires more resources and attention.  [Washington Post, 6/28/08

  • June Was The Second Deadliest Month in Afghanistan and our 500th Soldier Fell in Battle in July. According to the press,June was the second deadliest month for the military in Afghanistan since the war began, with 23 American deaths from hostilities, compared with 22 in Iraq. July was less deadly, with 20 deaths, compared with six in Iraq. On July 22, nearly seven years after the conflict began on Oct. 7, 2001, the United States lost its 500th soldier in the Afghanistan war. [New York Times, 8/6/08]
  • Insurgent Attacks Using IED’s Have Risen Sharply Since Last Year. Improvised Explosive Device attacks reached a high of 2,615 incidents in 2007, up from 1,931 in 2006. One senior defense official said that such attacks increased more than 40 percent in the eastern part of the country during the first half of this year, compared with the first half of 2007. [Washington Post, 6/28/08]
  • Afghanistan’s Poppy Fields Produce 93 Percent of the World’s Opium, Which is Used By the Taliban to Finance the Insurgency. Afghanistan’s poppy fields produced 93 percent of the world’s opium last year, but Afghan officials say drug traffickers are increasingly using chemicals to convert it into heroin before it is shipped abroad. In addition, illegal drugs could be worth more than $3 billion a year to the Afghan economy, and U.N. experts say the Taliban imposes a 10 percent tax on poppy farmers and also on the drug traffickers to finance their insurgency. [Reuters, 6/11/08]

U.S. military leaders assert Iraq hindering efforts in Afghanistan:

Admiral Mullen Publically Stated The Need For More Troops in Afghanistan Was Very Real and Urgent……  The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff addressed the security situation in Iraq, the need for more U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the Georgia challenge during a Pentagon news conference today.  The chairman said there is a “very real, urgent requirement” for more troops in Afghanistan. The United States has committed to deploying three more brigades to the country when it becomes possible to do so. “As far as the specifics of when we would get that done or how we would get that done, we just haven’t arrived at that particular point,” Mullen said.  [Regulatory Intelligence Data, 8/28/08]

…….Unfortunately, Mullen Also Admitted Increasing Troop Levels in Afghanistan Would Be Driven By The Situation in Iraq. Mullen said, “I’ve made no secret of my desire to flow more forces, U.S. forces, to Afghanistan just as soon as I can, nor have I been shy about saying that those forces will not be available unless or until the situation in Iraq permits us to do so.” [Defense Department News Conference, 7/2/08]

US Field Commander in Afghanistan Said He Would Like to See More Troops Committed To Afghanistan. Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser, in a video conference with reporters at the Pentagon, said he remains hopeful that the Bush administration will send more combat troops and other resources by winter. The current approach, he said, is making headway, but not at a rate that he considers satisfactory. “It’s not the way that I think … the Afghans, the international community and the American people would like to see us conduct this war,” he said. [AP, 9/6/08]

  • Mullen Called Afghanistan an “Economy of Force” Mission Driven By Results in Iraq. At a briefing with reporters,Schloesser “mentioned that Admiral Mike Mullen has said the U.S. effort in Afghanistan is by necessity an ‘economy of force’ mission, meaning it is under-resourced because the war in Iraq is considered a higher and more urgent national security priority. “We need to get away from that, over time,” to make a stronger push in Afghanistan.” [AP, 9/6/08]