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Senator Levin on Afghanistan

September 5, 2009

Today, the Grand Rapids Press ran an Associated Press story with the headline, “Democrats balk at troop surge in Afghanistan.” The article makes the claim that, “Key Senate Democrats signaled Friday that any push by President Barack Obama to send more troops to Afghanistan is likely to hit resistance on Capitol Hill.”

The article is framed in such a way as to suggest that there are elements in the Democratic Party that are hesitant to support any additional increase to US troop levels in Afghanistan. However, the only source cited in this article is Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin, who says,


There are a lot of ways to speed up the numbers and capabilities of the Afghan army and police. They are strongly motivated. I think that we should pursue that course … before we consider a further increase in combat forces beyond what’s already been planned to be sent in the months ahead.”

Levin is not saying he is against more US troops being sent to Afghanistan, rather that the US should put more emphasis on training Afghani troops to provide security in their own country. This line of thinking for Levin is very similar to what he proposed in Iraq, which was to make the Iraqi government responsible for dealing with internal security matters. Now Levin wants to put the burden of responsibility on the Afghani government, even though there are those who have spent time in Afghanistan and say that the Afghan security forces are corrupt.

The article does not explore Levin’s position on Iraq or the fact that he has consistently voted for funding bills that were tied to Iraq and Afghanistan spending, like the last piece of legislation that allocated $106 billion for US military activities in Iraq & Afghanistan that passed in June.

Another omission in this story was a much stronger criticism of the US policy on Afghanistan from fellow Democratic Senator Russ Feingold. Earlier this week Feingold stated that after eight years he sees no evidence that sending more troops will improve the situation in Afghanistan. The story also doesn’t provide much information or analysis of Levin’s comments within a larger context.

Defense Secretary Gates and several US commanders are now calling for more US troops on top of the 21,000 additional military personnel deployed a few months ago. The Obama administration is expected to discuss this new report from Gates next week and make some decisions about long-term US policy in Afghanistan. Independent reporter Glenn Greenwald wrote an excellent story on Thursday about the growing public opposition to the US occupation of Afghanistan and that it might rival health care as an issue that could greatly impact the future of the Obama administration.

 Unfortunately, for readers of the Grand Rapids Press, there are no perspectives provided beyond Senator Levin and no analysis of a growing opposition to the nearly eight year occupation of Afghanistan. Instead, readers are led to believe that Senator Levin and other Democrats are in opposition to the President’s policy in that country. One should never confuse tactics with strategy. It appears that if there is a difference between some Democrats and their President it is on tactics, not long term strategy.

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