Lately, Karl Rove has taken up the cause of defending the Bush administration’s record on Afghanistan. His main strategy thus far — understandably, given the near-universal acknowledgment that the current crisis in Afghanistan is the direct result of the choice to invade Iraq — is to just make stuff up.
Yesterday, Amanda noted that Rove had insisted that U.S. commanders in Afghanistan were never denied needed troops or resources, a statement contradicted by the former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David D. McKiernan.
A few weeks ago, he told Fox’s Greta Van Susteren that the reason Afghanistan is in such bad shape is — I kid you not — because the surge worked. Enough said.
On Van Susteren’s show again last night, though, Rove responded to criticism of the Bush administration’s handling of Afghanistan this way:
ROVE: Well, look, this is — this is — this is the sort of way that we revise history. The current occupant of the White House wants to basically say, Look, they under-sourced — under-resourced Afghanistan, and that’s simply not true. [...]
Our real problem in this region emerged in the last couple of years, when our relationships with Pakistan and events inside of Pakistan — events first inside of Pakistan, and then the first part of this year, the relationship with Pakistan — allowed, you know, the conditions for the Taliban to regroup inside Pakistan and for the Taliban affiliates inside Pakistan to begin to threaten the central government.
It’s not just the current occupant of the White House who says we under-resourced Afghanistan, but also the current Chairman of the Join Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee in September that the U.S. had “very badly under-resourced Afghanistan for the better part of five years.” As an international aid worker in Afghanistan told the New York Times’ Dexter Filkins, “the tragedy” is that “the $70 billion that would have given you enough police and army to stabilize this place all went to Iraq.”
As for Rove’s attempt to blame “our relationships with Pakistan and events inside of Pakistan” for the deterioration of Afghanistan, it’s unclear why he thinks this is remotely exculpatory of the Bush administration. It was Bush who placed — misplaced, it turned out — an enormous amount of trust in Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, and who continued to back him long after it had become clear that the authoritarian Musharraf was a far less than dependable ally against extremism.
It hardly needs saying that it’s Rove who is trying to revise history here. Let’s review: It was George W. Bush who allowed Osama bin Laden and the senior Al Qaeda leadership to escape from Tora Bora and set up shop in Pakistan. It was George W. Bush who chose to divert resources and attention from an unfinished war in Afghanistan to start a staggeringly wasteful and counterproductive war in Iraq. And it was George W. Bush who clung to Musharraf until the last moment. It’s perfectly understandable that Republican spinmeisters, especially one so legacy-obsessed as Rove, are now trying to lay Bush’s messes at the feet of the man hired to clean them up, but the reality is that Afghanistan was the key national security challenge of the Bush presidency — and the Bush administration utterly botched it.