With General Stanley McChrystal and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry testifying before Congress on Afghanistan, and with Secretary Gates in Kabul on a surprise visit, it is worth remembering how the U.S. arrived at this juncture. An initial victory over the Taliban in 2001 was squandered, as the Bush administration, aided by the Rumsfeld Pentagon, drastically underestimated the commitment that would be needed to stabilize the country and lost al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden in the mountains of Tora Bora. Now that the Obama administration has set out with a strategy that addresses this deterioration, it is vital that it learn from past missteps. Going forward, it must maintain focus on its core objectives, with an eye toward accountability and continuous evaluation.
In a tremendous departure from Rumsfeld, Secretary Gates’ first priority has been to ensure that the troops on the ground get all the equipment and resources they need to do their jobs. Through his focus on the immediate challenges of the current wars, Gates hopes to rebalance the military, better positioning it to address both the conventional and irregular threats of the 21st century.
While Sen. McCain has claimed his foreign policy experience as one of his greatest attributes, his actual record demonstrates a history of poor judgment and reckless rhetoric. The Republicans have spent the entire week trying to resurrect McCain’s image as a critic of the Bush administration, but his record shows that on issue after issue McCain was in perfect alignment with President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld.