Home Focus | Webb discusses Afghanistan strategy

Focus | Webb discusses Afghanistan strategy


Raises questions about surge, withdrawal timeline

Story by Chris Graham
[email protected]
With AFP Audio

U.S. Sen. Jim Webb has questions both about President Barack Obama’s planned Afghanistan troop surge and the goal set by the Obama administration to be able to begin drawing down troops from the Afghan theater in 2011.

“My belief is that it’s not as important to focus on a particular date as it is to reinforce the conditions under which we can have an endpoint,” said Webb, who wants to see what the administration’s ideas are as to the conditions that can be met “so that we can end our involvement in a positive way.”

Webb detailed his concerns with reporters on a conference call Wednesday afternoon following a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on which Webb serves where senators grilled Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen on the policy thrust from the president.


Sen. Jim Webb discusses Afghanistan strategy (4:28)



“What we need, and I’ve been saying this for three years, is a smart way to define the operational responsibilities of our military,” Webb said. “The big mistake we made in Iraq was to create these static positions that bogged us down city by city when the people that we were attempting to fight, Al Qaeda, which came into Iraq, remained mobile, and in fact left Iraq, and there we were, trying to supervise sectarian violence.

“The same situation would go with respect to Afghanistan. We want to maintain the maneuverability so that our military can react to the forces of international terrorism, and they remain mobile, and it’s to their advantage, and they know it, when we get bogged down in static positions in local areas,” Webb said.

The numbers game as relates to increased troop deployments is a key issue to Webb. “Our military, which in terms of our history, is a very small active-duty military, has been continuously deployed in one form or another since 2001,” pointed out Webb, who has pushed for policies balancing time for active-duty soldiers in the military theater with time back home.
“This is going to strain the force,” Webb said of the surge policy. “We’re going to be asking questions about how that’s going to affect the force. That’s something very strongly on my mind.”

Another issue for Webb is that the surge announced by Obama will have 100,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan, a number that does not include contractors and other U.S. civilians.

“That’s a lot of Americans coming into a country that has a historical resistance to foreign influence,” Webb said. “That’s something we’re going to be looking at very carefully in terms of the impact that our troops have in Afghanistan. The question is, Are they going to be viewed more as occupiers than as a presence that assists the change in government?”




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