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Sep 20th, 2010

Gen. Colin Powell (Ret.) served under four presidents: as National Security Adviser for Ronald Reagan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and Secretary of State for George W. Bush.


Powell: Obama to face ‘difficult’ Afghan choice (NBC “Meet the Press,” Sept. 19, 2010) — Retired Gen. Colin Powell discusses the state of the war in Afghanistan with NBC’s David Gregory on “Meet the Press.” (01:57)

Meet the Press transcript for Sept. 19, 2010

MR. DAVID GREGORY:  I want to talk about foreign policy and ask you about Afghanistan. Back in 2001, on this program, after the invasion, you told Tim Russert, “I don’t expect that you will see U.S. combat troops there in Afghanistan for any length of time as part of that international security force.” Times change, 2010 we’re surging up to 100,000 forces. Is it the right thing to do? Is this victory possible?

GEN. COLIN POWELL (Ret.):  We all hoped in 2001 that we could put in place an Afghan government under President Karzai that would be able to control the country, make sure al-Qaeda didn’t come back, and make sure the Taliban wasn’t resurging. It didn’t work out. And now I think that the strategy that has been adopted by President Obama to give the country a surge of U.S. troops and NATO troops and to do everything we can to build up the Afghan army and the Afghan national police so that they can take over, it’s a strategy the president said we’ll start to move out of, or at least bring to some culminating point, next July when we start to reduce the level of troops that we have there.

My problem right now is that I cannot get a good handle on how we’re doing. Some of the generals are saying, “We’re making progress. We are clearing an area.” But you really don’t defeat the Taliban by clearing an area. They move. And so I cannot tell how well it’s going. My concern is that it also is resting on a very weak base with the Karzai government, corruption in the Karzai government, and the Karzai government, which has not really been effective in extending its control out beyond Kabul. So I think we’ve got 10 months between now and next July, and I think the president will be facing a very, very difficult choice. You hear a lot of chatter now coming out of various places within the Pentagon saying, “Well, it will take time.” I don’t know if the president will give them time beyond next July to start the drawdown. Not pull out next July, but start the drawdown.


Related reports on this site

‘Tough Days Ahead’ in Afghanistan (Sept. 3, 2010)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

Chuck Hagel on National Defense (Sept. 3, 2009)

Former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Distinguished Professor in the Practice of National Governance at Georgetown University; and Aubrey Immelman, Associate Professor of Psychology, St. Johns University, Collegeville, Minn., Sept. 23, 2009.
Sen. Chuck Hagel and Aubrey Immelman


9/21/10 Update

Afghan Helicopter Crash Kills 9 Americans

Incident makes 2010 the deadliest year of the war for foreign troops


Nine U.S. troops die in Afghanistan crash (NBC “Today,” Sept. 21, 2010) — Nine soldiers from a NATO-led force, fighting in southern part of Afghanistan, were killed in what U.S. officials are calling a helicopter crash. NBC’s John Yang reports from Kabul. (01:52)

Reuters, The Associated Press, and NBC News via
September 21, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan — A helicopter crash killed nine American troops in Afghanistan on Tuesday, NBC News reported.

The incident made 2010 the war’s deadliest year for foreign troops, according to monitoring website The deaths take the toll so far this year to at least 529. Last year, 521 foreign troops were killed.

The Taliban claimed to have shot down the helicopter in Zabul province but NATO said there were no reports of hostile fire. …

One member of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, an Afghan soldier and a U.S. civilian were wounded in the crash and were taken to hospital for treatment, ISAF said in a statement. …

NBC News reported that the incident put the U.S. death toll in Afghanistan this year at 351. …

At least 2,097 foreign troops have been killed since the war began, about 60 percent of them American, according to Reuters.

Violence is at its worst across Afghanistan since the Taliban was ousted by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001, with military and civilian casualties at record levels [links added].

The crash came soon after one of the deadliest days of the year Saturday, when the Taliban launched scores of attacks across the country in a bid to disrupt a parliamentary election.

The election was being closely watched in Washington ahead of President Barack Obama’s planned war strategy review in December, which will likely examine the pace and scale of U.S. troop withdrawals after nine years of war.

Obama’s Democrats also face difficult mid-term Congressional elections in November amid sagging public support for the war [link added] and record troop casualties in Afghanistan will likely only make their task harder.

Most helicopter crashes in the country have been accidents caused by maintenance problems or factors such as dust.

Before this latest event, the worst helicopter crash for coalition forces was in May 2006 when a Chinook crashed attempting a nighttime landing on a small mountaintop in eastern Kunar province, killing 10 U.S. soldiers.

That followed on a 2005 crash in Kunar that killed 16 Americans. In February 2007, a Chinook helicopter crashed in Zabul, killing eight U.S. personnel.

Violence in recent months has soared to its highest levels since the Taliban were toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001.

The Taliban have spread the insurgency out of their heartland in the south and east into once relatively peaceful areas in the north and west.

At the same time, foreign troops have been increasing the reach and scale of operations to seek out the Taliban, especially in Helmand and Kandahar provinces in the south, and U.S. commanders have warned of more tough times ahead [link added].

There are almost 150,000 foreign troops fighting a growing Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, supporting about 300,000 Afghan security forces.

Obama ordered in an extra 30,000 troops late last year, the last units of which arrived this month.

The crash came after a suicide car bomb attack on a NATO convoy in the Behsood district of Jalalabad reportedly injured four Afghan civilians on Monday.

Saturday’s flawed election, in which widespread fraud and violence were reported [link added], has only underscored the challenges facing U.S. and other NATO nations as they decide how long they will keep troops in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s endemic corruption has long been a point of friction between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Western allies.

Transparency International ranks Afghanistan as one of the world’s two most corrupt countries, ahead only of Somalia. …

Dutch troops ended their mission in August and several European and other nations are under growing public pressure to bring their troops home.

Germany, the third-largest ISAF contributor with 4,400 soldiers, aims to start a pullout next year.

Denmark hopes to withdraw many of its 700 troops by 2015 and Canada will pull out its nearly 3,000-strong force next year.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — September 20, 2009

Bachmann-Pawlenty.jpg picture by Rifleman-AlDems Link Pawlenty, Bachmann

One year ago today, I reported that the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party of Minnesota released a statement that characterized former Gov. Tim Pawlenty as “moving closer and closer to Representative Michele Bachmann’s extreme right-wing ideology” and “even adopting [Bachmann’s penchant for] making politically expedient claims without any factual basis” – while, like Bachmann, abandoning Minnesotans “to pursue his national ambitions” and “jumping at every nonsensical chance for political opportunism.”


FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — September 20, 2008

After the Primary Election: Day 11

Two years ago today, on the 11th day after losing my 2008 primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, in line with my focus on national security, I reported on the release of a new al-Qaida tape marking the 7th anniversary of 9/11, threatening attacks in Afghanistan; a huge suicide truck bombing that devastated the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad; and a speech by Pakistan’s new president, Asif Ali Zardari, in which he said Pakistan will not tolerate violations of its sovereignty in the name of fighting terrorism — a clear signal to the United States to avoid controversial cross-border strikes against the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Pakistan US
Pakistani protesters burn U.S. flags Friday, Sept. 19, 2008 to condemn U.S. missile strikes in Pakistani territory near the country’s border with Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Shakil Adil / AP)

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