Repeating the Mistakes From the Iraq War in Afghanistan

Yesterday, early in the morning, the House Armed Services Committee finished its work on the Defense Authorization bill for 2010. The bill unfortunately falls short is several areas, including a slashing of our missile defense program and a failure to dedicate the resources necessary to prevail in Afghanistan.

I recently took a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan. This was my first trip back to Iraq since having served with the United States Marine Corps in al Anbar province from August 2005 to March 2006. No doubt, I was deeply impressed with the progress that has been made in Iraq and I’m confident that we are now on our way to bringing our direct involvement in that country to a just conclusion. But I cannot say the same thing about Afghanistan. The Obama Administration appears to be repeating the mistakes from early in the Iraq War, with incremental increases and a failure to fully commit the resources necessary to win.

Afghanistan has no history of effective governance, is physically a larger county than Iraq with a diverse population, and has a resurgent and determined enemy. Yet our projected troop strength in Afghanistan only comes to 68,000. This is far less than the commitment we made in Iraq during the 2007 surge when U.S. troops totaled 168,000. Equally troubling is the current plan’s increase in native Afghan security forces, both police and army, to only 216,000. This is far less than the 615,000 total that is currently serving in Iraq.

We’ve made enough mistakes already in Afghanistan that have allowed the once-defeated enemy to reemerge and dominate whole provinces. It’s time we were honest with the American people about the true cost of what it will take to win this war.

I recently questioned Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee last month about the projected resources dedicated to Afghanistan. Admiral Mullen answered that once we get into the mission, we will have an opportunity to reassess what we need.

During consideration of the defense bill, I was able to include an amendment which offers support to our senior military commanders in Afghanistan in their efforts to ensure they have the troop levels and types of forces needed to achieve the goals laid out by the President’s strategy. The amendment will allow them to use outside analysis to help determine what resources are necessary to secure Afghanistan to the point where real political progress can be made, such as is finally being achieved in Iraq. I hope this outside analysis will allow the military to seek information not easily susceptible to top-down pressure from the white House.

By not putting in the necessary resources to win in Afghanistan, we are continuing the same old policies of dragging out a war that has already gone on for too long and has cost too many lives.

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