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Levin Speaks to Think Tank on Afghanistan

December 21, 2009

A few weeks after President Barack Obama announced his intent to send an additional 30,000 US combat troops to Afghanistan, Michigan Senator Carl Levin spoke to the right-wing think tank, the Brookings Institute.

In his talk to the Brookings Institute, Levin reiterated many of the same points made by President Obama in his December 1st address to the nation. The main points that Levin addressed were the need to deny Al Qaeda a “sanctuary” to commit more acts of terror and to prevent the Taliban from “destabilizing” Afghanistan.

However, Levin does say he has some concerns about the additional US troops being deployed to Afghanistan. “I am concerned that the large new commitment of U.S. combat forces included in the plan may undermine the over-arching goal of preparing the Afghans to secure their own success.” This concern seems to be quite reasonable, but it raises questions about how the Afghans will secure their own future and with what kind of government.

In terms of how to make sure that turning Afghanistan over to Afghanis the only enforcement mechanism that Senator Levin provides is that he “will continue to urge the administration to focus intently on the training aspect of our mission.” A question for all of us at this point might be how relevant is it to “urge” the President to do something when Senator Levin votes to fund the war in Afghanistan?

Later in his talk Levin admits that there are reports that the Afghan military is unwilling to fight when called upon by the US. He also said that while meeting with a village council in Afghanistan he asked how long the US should have their troops in their country. One man answered and said, “Until the moment we make Afghanistan’s security forces self-sufficient. Then, he said, we should go.

Levin then says something quite interesting in his presentation to the Brookings Institute. “Our commanders should wake up every morning thinking, what can I do today to prepare the Afghans to secure their own nation? That should be our principal mission. Yet General McChrystal acknowledged yesterday that the additional troops we will send to Afghanistan will not speed up an increase in the size of the Afghan security forces.

Again, the question should be asked, if it is clear that the increase in US troops will not lead to Afghanis being responsible to their own nation’s security, why does Senator Levin vote to fund this war and support the President’s decision?

The only other point that Levin raises in his talk worth discussing is his claim that the Taliban are engaged in a propaganda campaign calling the US presence in Afghanistan as an occupation. What Levin fails to acknowledge is that the Taliban are not the only ones who believe that the US presence in Afghanistan is an occupation. Groups like RAWA and the Afghan Women’s Mission both call the US military presence in their country as an occupation and over the past few months Malalai Joya, a member of the Afghan Parliament who has been touring the US for the past 3 months, has repeatedly referred to the US presence as an occupation.

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