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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Dent: Afghanistan Has Two Seasons - Winter & Fighting Season

"There are two seasons in Afghanistan - Winter and Fighting Season."

That's Congressman Charlie Dent's Afghanistan assessment, distilled into a single sentence. He said that during a telephone news conference with reporters on September 8, at the conclusion of a whirlwind, bi-partisan tour of Southwest Asia.

Afghanistan - We'll know more in December

Why are we in Afghanistan in the first place? Some might argue it's imperial ambition. Others might claim it is a reaction to the 9/11 attacks, which were originally planned in that desolate country. But it's very likely that, believe it or not, nuclear deterrence is a major reason as well. If Afghanistan continues to spiral out of control, the Taliban will soon be in control. From there, it will have a safe haven from which it can continue to destabilize Pakistan, which just happens to have 90 nuclear warheads.

So how are we doing? Too soon to say, according to Dent. He was briefed by General David Petraeus on "village stabilization efforts," where a relationship is developed with tribal elders, after which local police are recruited and trained. This has happened successfully in about 20 villagers, but Dent cautions there are a few thousand. He visited two of these "stabilized" villages, but adds "it's still very dangerous there."

The chief goal is to empower local governments. Historically, Afghanistan has never really had a central government. Another goal is to prevent the country from becoming a "breeding ground for terrorists."

Although generally supportive of President Obama's strategy, Dent considers the timeline for withdrawal as "problematic" because "it confuses people. Some think it is a signal we are running out."

General Petraeus will assess conditions on the ground in December, to determine how much more time is needed. Dent claims that "we're there to be successful," but acknowledges "we will have to draw down at some point."

Pakistan - Floods Are Greater Threat Than Insurgency

Dent is very concerned about Pakistan's continued stability. Its greatest threat had been the insurgency in tribal areas, but that has been replaced by the catastrophic floods and the government's "inability to respond effectively." Pakistani television is broadcasting images of President Asif Ali Zardari's sojourn in France and England, while 20 million of his countrymen have been left homeless.

Dent reports there are rumors of an impending military coup, but he doubts that will happens because generals are already running the county.

Although Pakistan has a professional army and is willing to work with us, Dent is discouraged by the government's seeming indifference to the Haqqani, an independent group based in Pakistan ans a known threat to coalition forces in Afghanistan. That situation is "unacceptable," Dent said.

The only silver lining in Pakistan's dark cloud is the sight of U.S. Special Forces, working side-by-side with the Pakistani Army to help flood victims.

In Georgia, Dent witnessed a ceremony honoring the first soldier from that pro-American country killed in Afghanistan. In Lebanon, he had discussions with government leaders on the best way to protect that country's territorial integrity.
Updated 1:00 1 AM: Blogger Chris Casey had a one-on-one with Congressman Dent.


RS said...

"Too soon to say". This is the longest war in American history. It was started with valida reasons and then pretty much ignored because Bush redireted the military effort toward Iraq which posed no real threat. Dick Chaney had a burr up his butt and Bush made a terrible decision.

I support Dent, but this type of statement worries me given how long we've been there and that Obama doesn't seem to be making a lot of headway in a war which has been spiraling out of control for years.

Anonymous said...

When are our troops returning from Germany and Korea?

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I support Dent, but this type of statement worries me"

You can blame me for putting it that way. Those are my words, not his. He seems encouraged, but gave an honest assessment. If we've stabilized 20 villages, and there are several thousand, I think we'll be there for some time. I also think "victory" will be nothing like what we usually expect to see. For us, it will just mean the area is stable.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Yeah, but when will they come and stabilize Allentown?