National Security Network

Gen. Eaton at House Armed Services Hearing on Afghanistan & Iraq: U.S. Needs to Revise National Security Architecture

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Report 6 November 2009

Afghanistan Afghanistan iraq Paul Eaton


Yesterday, NSN Senior Adviser Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton (USA, Ret.), provided testimony before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  His full written testimony is available here and below are his opening remarks:

“Chairman Snyder, Ranking Member Wittman, members of the subcommittee: Thank you for the invitation to join you today to discuss a topic that is -- one, it's very important to the nation and is very personal to the thousands of families who send their soldiers and Marines to prosecute the nation's wars.

“To put it into context, over 200,000 American families wake up and look outside to see if there is a government vehicle out to give them the worst news possible. It happens every day. So I support this administration's prudent review of our options in Afghanistan.

“Now, I'm not going to read the entire statement submitted, but I'll highlight a few points.

“Andrew Bacevich, retire Army colonel -- now professor of International Relations at Boston University and author of "The Limits of Power" -- wrote for Harper's Magazine this month: "Among Democrats and Republicans alike, with few exceptions, Afghanistan's importance is simply assumed -- much in the way 50 years ago otherwise intelligent people simply assumed that the United States had a vital interest in ensuring the survival of South Vietnam. Today, as then, the assumption does not standup to even casual scrutiny." I don't buy Mr. Bacevich's comments exactly, but it certainly tempers the argument.

“So before we begin the debate about numbers of soldiers and Marine's in Afghanistan and subsequent impact on mission there -- and our mission in Iraq -- it would be helpful to answer the questions: Why do we continue operations in Afghanistan; or what do we want Afghanistan to look like in so many years; or what differentiates Afghanistan from Yemen or Somalia or Sudan or any other failed or failing states capable of harboring al Qaeda? So the mission statement will inform the commander's intent from which the real campaign will be known. If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.

“So the primary rationale I see for continuance in Afghanistan is 60-or-so nuclear weapons in Pakistan, the link to regional stability and the extremist groups operating there. There is an argument -- unfortunately harkening back to the Vietnam-era domino theory that "As goes Afghanistan and its internal fight against extremists so can go Pakistan". I'll leave the answer to why to the experts.

“Now, from a military perspective, we're not going to get to the 600,000-plus that we need by our own math to execute counterinsurgency operations. So by definition, whatever number soldier option the president elects to pursue, we're going to have a kind of COIN -- counterinsurgency operation light. It will probably not be rural; it will be urban and it will be along the lines of what one of my smarter classmates -- Andrew Krepinevich -- the oil-spot approach where you establish a zone of security and derive from that a zone of prosperity, which will ultimately spread out and include greater parts of the country.

“Now, reviewing the components of U.S. projection power, I'm going to insist that there are three components -- not just the military. As I told then-Candidate Obama, when I had an opportunity to meet with him more than a year ago and he asked me what the Army wanted, I responded: "Senator, we want your secretary of Agriculture to be at least as interested in the outcome in Afghanistan and Iraq as is your secretary of Defense."

“The United States is in serious need of a review and a revision of its national security architecture. We prosecuted the Cold War with the National Security Act of 1947 and did so brilliantly, but the world is very different now.

“Every colonel who goes to the Army War College gets the components of national power: economic, military, diplomatic, political.

“And I'm not going to go through the list of questions that I proposed that you ask the administration for the military component, but I would like to emphasize the so-called civilian surge that we are embarking upon. It's not illustrated well enough. I don't understand, from what I can find out, what the components of the civilian surge are. I don't know who's in charge of the economic program. And as a citizen, I think it prudent that we find that out.

“So I expect that we be informed relatively soon on what the civilian surge looks like, what the economic program is going to be, who's in charge. From a diplomatic perspective, there's an internal -- a micro-diplomatic program; and an external, a macro-diplomatic program. Internal to develop from district to province to national and enlightenment with political operators inside the country to shoulder the counterinsurgency warfare program. And then there's the macro -- our allies in Europe and the surrounding countries on what they will do to assure and to assist us in establishing the security that we need to in Afghanistan.

“So this preoccupation with the number of soldiers is secondary, I believe, to the greater issue of economic engagement and political engagement. And I'll end with a quote from Richard Clarke in his book "Your Government Failed You": "If we stop denigrating government and using its instrument as partisan punching bags, if we work in a bipartisan way to rebuild our institutions of national security, your government will fail you much less. It can even make you proud once more."

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”