The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Zach Lowe

Feingold Questions Afghanistan Strategy During Foreign Relations Committee Hearing


Today, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold participated in a Senate
Foreign Relations Committee hearing entitled "Voice of Veterans of the Afghan War."
The hearing featured testimony of several veterans of the Afghanistan war, as well as Colonel
Andrew Bacevich
(Ret), a West Point graduate currently on the faculty at Boston University.
During the hearing, Senator Feingold, who has raised concerns with the president's
proposed troop increase in Afghanistan
without an adequate strategy for Pakistan, had this
with Bacevich:

Isn't necessary. Colonel
Bacevich what are the prospects for defeating the insurgency by increasing the
number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan given some concerns that many if not most
Afghans in the South oppose the presence of U.S. troops?

Andrew Bacevich,
Colonel, U.S.
Army (Ret.): Several people have made the point that this is not a problem that
has a military solution. That to the degree that there is a solution, the
solution in Afghanistan is going to be found in what is going to be a massive
and protracted and tremendously costly exercise in nation building. I
think the likelihood of that exercise in producing success ten or fifteen years
downstream is not great but I think the larger point to be made, and I think
you made it in your remarks and I think Senator Lugar alluded to the same
thing, even if we could magically wave our wand and tomorrow have the
Afghanistan problem be solved - that the country would be stable, that
the government would be legitimate - what exactly would we have achieved
in a strategic sense? I think in a strategic sense the gains would be
very limited because as you suggested, and as this administration has
acknowledged in the creation in this term "Af-Pak," it is a mistake
to view Afghanistan in
isolation and in many respects the larger problem is in neighboring Pakistan.
To invest enormous resources in Afghanistan
I think is allowing technical considerations to take precedence over strategic

This is precisely what's been bothering me since I spent four or five
days in Pakistan in this region less than a year ago, and after the thoughtful
remarks of the chairman after his recent visit there, I want to follow on this
inter-relationship between Afghanistan
and Pakistan.
What about the possibility that an escalation in Afghanistan
can actually be more destabilizing to Pakistan. In other words, in
terms of militants spilling back over into that border. Is that a fair
concern or not?

I think it's a very real concern. You know, there's a very
interesting, I think, flawed new book out by David Kilcullen, the
counter-insurgency specialist, called "The Accidental Guerrilla."
There's a lot about that book that I disagree, but there's
one core truth I think that he give us. And that is the notion that most
of the people who fight against us, in places like Afghanistan, are fighting against
us because we're there. Now we may not believe that we are invading and
occupying countries, but the people on the other end view themselves as being
invaded and occupied. So to some degree, to some measurable degree, in
places like Afghanistan,
increasing the U.S.
presence actually increases the dimensions of the problem.

Feingold: And
Colonel, Admiral Mullen has acknowledged that the Pakistani security services
maintains relations with militants in Pakistan. There are press
reports that this includes the provision of fuel and ammunition for Taliban
operation against U.S.
forces in Afghanistan.
If these allegations are correct, what is the likelihood that we can
stabilize the region or deny al Qaeda safe havens there so long as this sort of
activity continues?

Next to none.

Video of Senator Feingold's exchange with Bacevich
is available here.
Senator Feingold's full statement and exchange with the witnesses (both
video and transcript) are available below. The hearing came on a day when there
were reports
of the Taliban gaining control over more territory in Pakistan.