President of the Council on Foreign Relations on Afghanistan: ‘It’s not worth it’
The president of the Council of Foreign Relations is telling President Barack Obama that he needs to drastically scale down his ambitions in Afghanistan.
In an article published in the most recent edition of Newsweek, Richard Haass called Afghanistan “very much Barack Obama’s war of choice.” Haass seemed to be echoing the words of RNC Chairman Michael Steele when he said Afghanistan was a “war of Obama’s choosing.”
GOP chairman Michael Steele was blasted by fellow Republicans recently for describing Afghanistan as Ã¢â‚¬Å“a war of ObamaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s choosing,Ã¢â‚¬Â and suggesting that the United States would fail there as had many other outside powers. Some critics berated Steele for his pessimism, others for getting his facts wrong, given that President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan soon after 9/11. But SteeleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s critics are the ones who are wrong: the RNC chair was more correct than not on the substance of his statement, if not the politics.
“The war in Afghanistan that the Bush administration fought was quite narrow and quite modest,” Haass told CNN’s Kiran Chetry Monday.
“The Obama administration came in, tripled U.S. force levels and they are doing something very ambitious. They want to build a strong Afghanistan state, a large police, a large national military, and not only are they targeting terrorists, of which Leon Panetta, the head of the CIA, said there is only between 50 and 100, but they are going after the Taliban,” said Haass.
“And the Taliban, maybe 30,000 or 40,000 of them. They are going after them and this represents to some extent half the population of Afghanistan. Because the Taliban share the same ethnicity — they’re Pashtuns — as half the population of Afghanistan. Mr. Obama has essentially made the United States a central participant in the Afghanistan civil war,” he said.
Haass seems to be calling for the same type of counterterrorism strategy favored by Vice President Joe Biden. “[Obama] could have done in Afghanistan essentially what we’re doing in places like Yemen and Somalia. We’ve got a few special forces there. We can target the people who are supporting terrorists with drones, cruise missiles or special forces, essentially a very modest counterterrorism strategy rather than a very ambitious counterinsurgency or state building strategy,” said Haass.
“I don’t think Afghanistan’s worth it,” he concluded.
This video is from CNN’s American Morning, broadcast July 19, 2010.