Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Questions for Roth on Afghanistan

Candidate Roger Roth's stance that he would not have voted for the Afghan war supplemental has generated a large amount of discussion leading up to the primary next week. As far as I know Roth has never wavered in this position and Roth supporter, and veteran, Dale McNamee has been vocal on blogs covering WI-8 in support of Roth's position.

Today, McNamee had a post up at The Party of Know that discusses Roth's position in detail, I urge you to read the whole thing. I'm personally skeptical that a continued presence in Afghanistan serves our national interest. Not being a veteran, I'm willing to give wide latitude to those who have served, like Roth and McNamee, but that doesn't mean I can't, respectfully, question their position.

From the outset, I want to say that I'm convinced by their argument that a vote against the supplemental does not undercut funding for troops currently in combat. It appears that a vote against the supplemental simply wouldn't fund the expansion of troops that Obama proposed.

One of Roth's objections to the Obama expansion is that it wasn't for the full amount of troops that General Stanley McChrystal, at the time commander of forces in Afghanistan, requested. Obama's troop increase was for 30,000 troops, or 3/4 of what McChrystal requested. So in response to a reduction of 25% in the troop amount, Roth would not vote to fund any of the troops. My first question is does Roth believe that McChrystal himself would agree that Congress should not fund the troop increase, even in its reduced form? That is to say, did McChrystal see his troop request as an all or nothing proposal?

My second question is, if deference to the ground commander is important, then doesn't the commander's opinion on the overall troop level carry weight when deciding how to vote on the supplemental?

Here is current commander in Afghanistan General David Petreaus:

“We have to - absolutely must – remain committed to reducing the loss of innocent civilian life to an absolute minimum in the conduct of our operations,” he said. “In fact, [the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan] actually recognized recently in a report that even as we have tripled the number of U.S. forces on the ground, the number of civilian casualties has gone down by 30 percent, which is a pretty extraordinary achievement, frankly, and something we must stay committed to.”

The biggest issue, Petraeus said, was the resources devoted to the effort in Afghanistan. In January 2009, he said, U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan numbered roughly 30,000, and that number soon will be more than 98,000. The number of civilians has been tripled, he added, and funding has been provided for 100,000 additional Afghan security forces.

“What that is enabling us to do for the first time here is to carry out a comprehensive civil-military counterinsurgency campaign,” Petraeus said.

General Petreaus believes that the increase in troops to the 98,000 level is important for carrying out the counterinsurgency strategy, but this apparently doesn't persuade Roth enough to come out in support of the supplemental.

I realize the Congress has the power to declare war and the power of appropriations, but where does the use of these powers cross over into dictating wartime strategy and tactics?

These are all incredibly tough questions, and I don't pretend to have the answer. I'll just add that Roth's stance on this point is by no means a deal-breaker, but it certainly is thought-provoking.


Dad29 said...

A question for you:

Petraeus/McCrystal can recommend XX troops and request YY funding.

The President is C-in-C, however.

Did POTUS put all his horses to work on obtaining that funding?

There, sir, lies the answer to your question. Bush did. Obama did not.

Dale said...

General John Shalikashvili warned President Bush they we did not have enough troops to secure Iraq after the completion of the ground campaign. He was fired and he was right. Because he did not listen to his military advisor, Al Qaeda and was Bathist were able to mount a insurgency in the power vacuum that existed from 2003-2005. It took a change in approach and a properly resourced surge to bring relative stability to Iraq.

General McChyrstal was vocal in what he said he needed to be successful in Afghanistan. His staff let it be known that he was not happy with what he recieved and he was fired.

I am a great fan of General Petraeus, however, President Obama made he decision to give the military only 3/4 of what they requested in December 2009, Gen Peterus took command in July 2010. He is fighting with the hand that was dealt to him, and having the honor of serving under under him, I know that he is too much of a professional to ever publicly disagree with the President. His rational for that is simple, saying publicly that he has too few troops would hurt the moral and the fighting readiness of his command and have a detrimental effect on our NATO allies who have committed troops.

Jeremy does have this right...he understands the war supplemental had nothing to do with funding our troops in the field (even though Ribble volunteers are saying that in thier get out the vote calls).

But my question while is while Jeremy asks Roth the tough question of why he wouldn't vote for the bill, he has yet to ask Reid why, if he thinks "Obama is not committed to winning the war in Afghanistan despite the troop surge. The war in Afghanistan is only worth fighting if we are willing to win it" (Those are his words, not mine) would he vote to put the lives of American military members at risk to implement a strategy our government is not committed to winning?

I think that's a very simple question and one that is worth asking.

Jack said...

How do you explain a Roth press release 3 months ago criticizing Obama for not immediately sending in more troops and funding that effort. Now he is claiming that he would not support or fund that effort.

Jeremy R. Shown said...

Jack -

Do you have a link to the release?

Dale said...

Where is the link? Oh,,,can't find it hey,,,

Roth has been consitant. Fund what the commander requested or bring them home.