Black Lawmakers Respond to Afghanistan Surge
President Barack Obama unveiled his long-awaited Afghanistan strategy on Dec. 2 that included a plan to deploy an additional 30,000 troops and an ambitious timetable to begin withdrawing troops by July 2011. During a televised speech delivered at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Obama explained that his plan–the result of three months of intensive debate–aimed to meet three goals: to deny al-Qaeda a safe haven; reverse the Taliban’s momentum, and strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government.
The speech left Rep. Robert Scott (D-Virginia) with many questions, such as whether strengthening the Afghan government is even a “reasonably achievable goal.â€ Afghanistan is notorious, he said, for its inability to be a united nation.
“The idea that you’ll have a government that can actually govern is problematic,â€ said Scott. “And where’s the evidence that local security forces can actually be trained?â€ If, he asks, they haven’t been able to be properly trained during the eight years the war has already lasted, how can they be trained in 18 months?
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) expressed skepticism over the 18-month timetable and the cost. The estimated $30 billion is a hefty amount for lawmakers to swallow when faced with what they view to be more pressing domestic issues.
“[Obama] said that by 2011 we’ll begin to transfer the security responsibility to the Afghans, depending on what’s happening on the ground, so we have no assurances,â€ Waters said, adding that the cost is “just mindboggling to us.â€
Lawmakers would prefer that the U.S. wind down in Afghanistan and redirect those funds to its domestic agenda.
A Gallup poll taken after Obama’s speech found that 48% of Americans believe the United States is likely or certain to reach its goals, while 45% believe the opposite is true.