In an interview with 60 Minutes, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan warned that the attacks by Afghan soldiers on coalition forces will not be ending anytime soon. Speaking with Laura Logan, General John Allen said that he was “mad as hell” about the deaths of allied soldiers at the hands of Afghans — so-called “green on blue” attacks in military parlance:
ALLEN: You know, we’re — we’re willing to sacrifice a lot for this campaign. But we’re not willing to be murdered for it.
General Allen also compared green on blue attacks to the use of improvised explosive devices (IED) in the Iraq War, labeling these insider attacks as the “signature attack” of the Afghanistan conflict. Watch the interview here:
Allen’s statements reflect the allied frustration with the current situation in Afghanistan. A recent halt in training operations between U.S. forces and the Afghan National Army as a result of the insider attacks has not fully been lifted. The airing of the 60 Minutes interview comes as American forces recorded the 2,000th death in Afghanistan since the war began almost eleven years ago. In all, more than 50 allied troops have been killed in green on blue attacks so far this year.
The surge in Afghans turning on trainers and mentors has prompted NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rassmussen to float the possibility that members of the alliance may withdraw their military forces from Afghanistan earlier than agreed upon. Such a move would impact current planning for the end of U.S. combat operations by 2013 and a full withdrawal of NATO forces by 2014.
Top Mitt Romney foreign policy surrogate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said today that he would have pulled out U.S. troops from Afghanistan “a lot earlier” than the 2014 timeline President Obama has announced “if I had seen a scenario such as this that is unwinding.”
On MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning, McCain’s stance on Afghanistan was a confusing muddle — similar to that of Romney and his campaign aides. First McCain attacked Obama’s timeline. Moments later he said that, as president, he would have pulled U.S. troops out sooner and just minutes after that, McCain said the U.S. needs more troops and supplies:
SCARBOROUGH: We’ve been there for over a decade, how much longer can we stay there. You know the American people only put up with foreign occupations for so long and wars, how much longer would a President McCain have us stay there.
MCCAIN: I would have a long time ago set certain goals to be achieved associated with timing and not saying that all we’re doing is leaving. And if I had seen a scenario such as this that is unwinding, I would have gotten out a lot earlier to tell you the truth. This is inevitable that the Taliban is coming back, IED’s continue to flow from Pakistan and look, it is unraveling. You are having the worst kind of morale situation you could possibly have and that is your allies that you can’t trust. …
GEIST: What would you do today. Why would another year, another five years, another 10 years change in Afghanistan?
MCCAIN: I would make a decision as to whether we would have sufficient number of troops, listening to my military leadership to remain there to carry out an environment where the Afghan military are capable of carrying out those responsibilities and if that is not politically possible or militarily possible then I would make plans for withdrawing earlier —
GEIST: So then you believe that a few more years there would change the dynamic of the security?
MCCAIN: Not a few more years. Additional troops, additional supplies, additional kinds of efforts that were succeeding, that were succeeding and are not now.
Watch the clip:
Last month McCain floated the idea of withdrawing from Afghanistan more rapidly than President Obama currently plans, a surprising statement given that the Arizona Republican has repeatedly attacked the White House’s withdrawal plan. McCain then quickly walked back those comments saying a more rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan “would be the wost possible course of action.”
But McCain’s back and forth is emblematic of the Republicans and the Romney campaign’s confusion on Afghanistan — on the one hand seeming to want to placate the neocons and on the other, trying to side with the rest of the country.
Poll: Obama Still Holds Decisive Lead Over Romney On Foreign Policy |
Mitt Romney’s campaign, Republicans and their conservative allies at Fox News have been making a lot of noise the past few weeks claiming that the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya on Sept. 11 means President Obama is weak on foreign policy. But a new poll conducted on Sept. 24-27 suggests that the attacks aren’t gaining any traction. According to a new Politico/George Washington University poll, 52 percent of likely voters said Obama would “better handle” foreign policy compared to Romney’s 40 percent. The result is almost unchanged from when the same poll asked the question back in May and it mirrors what otherpolling has found this campaign season.
A new Washington Post poll conducted Sept. 26-29 found that Obama has a 14 point lead over Romney on which candidate Americans trust more to do a better job handling terrorism and a five point edge on trust in handling international affairs.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) joined the chorus of Republicans criticizing President Obama’s response to the violence in Libya on Monday, going so far as to suggest that the administration’s handling of the situation is worse than Watergate — the scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon:
BLACKBURN: I think this is an issue — Benghazi-gate is the right term for this. This is very, very serious, probably more serious than Watergate. And to call this a response to a video when it was obviously a terrorist attack — and when you read some of the documentation on this, and you know that there has been other sites and locations that have bind attack in Libya, when you know that the Libyan government felt there was something getting ready to transpire.
Fox News, Republican lawmakers, and conservative pundits have for weeks criticized U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice for initially characterizing the attack as a “spontaneous reaction” to a movie trailer disparaging the Prophet Muhammed. Since then, however, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, and even White House Spokesperson Jay Carney have all used the word “terrorist” to describe the attack. Obama himself attributed the violence to terrorism during a September 12 address at the Rose Garden. “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for,” he said. “Today, we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.”
On Friday, Mike Huckabee also hinted that Obama should be impeached over the incident. Blackburn joined Rep. Peter King (R-NY) in calling for Rice to resign.
Steve Benen notes that Republicans have made it a bit of a pattern to call non-scandals during the Obama administration the next Watergate.
– U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan reached 2,000 as the toll has climbed steadily recently due to so-called “green on blue” attacks.
– USA Today reports that “Data collected from roadside explosions in Afghanistan and Iraq show troops in Mine Resistant Ambush Protected trucks are as much 14 times more likely to survive the blast than those riding in Humvees.”
– Yemen’s new president said that he personally approves U.S. drone attacks in his country and that the campaign has helped reverse al-Qaeda’s gains there. “Every operation, before taking place, they take permission from the president,” President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi said in an interview with the Washington Post, adding, “The drone technologically is more advanced than the human brain.”
– The Wall Street Journal reports: The U.S. is preparing for a stepped-up counterterrorism campaign against al Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa in response to the Sept. 11 attack on the American consulate in Libya.
– After several days of attacking President Obama over the attacks that killed for Americans in Libya last month, Romney’s foreign policy advisers are at odds on whether they should continue criticizing Obama on foreign policy or shift back to the economy.
– Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Sunday that Iran’s economy is edging towards collapse due to international sanctions over its controversial nuclear program.