Article: Progressive Caucus Report on Afghanistan (The Nation)

Progressive Caucus Report on Afghanistan

posted by Katrina vanden Heuvel on 05/12/2009 @ 4:20pm

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has released a set of recommendations based on its series of forums on Afghanistan--the sixth and last of which will be held Wednesday. It's releasing the report now so its membership may consider it in deciding how to vote on the $96 billion War Supplemental this week.

Here is a preview of just a few of the valuable recommendations in the report:

"Require an 80-20 ratio (political-military) with all future US funding, with a special inspector general to monitor the implementation of this ratio."

Even Gen. Petraeus calls for this 80-20 ratio in his counterinsurgency strategy, but a panelist on the Afghanistan Forum, Gen. Paul Eaton, former commander of Iraq's security forces,pointed out that funding in Afghanistan is 90 percent military.

"Require the immediate cessation of drone attacks."

Many of the panelists, including Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson--Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff -- pointed out that the high number of civilian deaths from drone attacks creates more enemies and fuels the insurgency rather than undermining it.

"Require UN involvement in overseeing and mandating the role of US and international military operations.... Require any increase in US troop presence is oriented to training and support roles for Afghan security forces...not for US-led counterinsurgency efforts."

The report reads, "17,000 additional troops are neither sufficient to manage the conflict nor a useful contribution because the already deployed US/international forces are not being presently utilized." It is worth noting that the Petraeus counterinsurgency strategy calls for upwards of 400,000 troops. Col. Wilkerson recommended the support/training role of any additional troops.

"Require the initiative of a dialogue process, with Saudi Arabia--who initiated previous talks between Afghan government and ethnic/tribal leaders--taking the lead, or with other international organization taking the lead."

Its clear that the insurgency will not be defeated and security not achieved until ethnic and tribal leaders are brought into the fold.

While I personally would like to see a call for immediate withdrawal of US troops, and a sharp and smart focus on diplomatic and political solutions to the conflict, these recommendations would improve the current strategy of escalation that destabilizes the region and threatens President Obama's domestic and international agenda. Kudos to the Progressive Caucus for setting up these forums, listening to people with a deep understanding of the issues, and putting forth recommendations in a timely manner.