Yesterday, Vice President Cheney spoke at the Center for Security Policy, run by former Reagan official and prominent neoconservative Frank Gaffney. Cheney used the opportunity to aggressively attack President Obama, accusing him of “giving in to the angry left” and “dithering while America’s armed forces are in danger.” He added that because Obama “seems afraid to make a decision” on whether to add more troops to Afghanistan, he should just emulate the Bush administration’s strategy since it was so successful:
We should all be concerned as well with the direction of policy on Afghanistan. For quite a while, the cause of our military in that country went pretty much unquestioned, even on the left. The effort was routinely praised by way of contrast to Iraq, which many wrote off as a failure until the surge proved them wrong. Now suddenly — and despite our success in Iraq — we’re hearing a drumbeat of defeatism over Afghanistan. These criticisms carry the same air of hopelessness, they offer the same short-sighted arguments for walking away, and they should be summarily rejected for the same reasons of national security.
Watch the speech here:
With his criticisms, Cheney joins former White House adviser Karl Rove, who has been using his on-air and print outlets to blast Obama’s Afghanistan policies and rewrite history of President Bush’s legacy.
Many Americans — both on the left and commanders in the military — were critical of the Bush administration’s policies in Afghanistan. As early as 2005, the Center for American Progress called for a strategic redeployment from Iraq, urging more troops for Afghanistan where greater resources were “urgently needed to beat back the resurging Taliban forces and to maintain security throughout the country.” Additionally, in 2008, Gen. David D. McKiernan, then the top U.S. commander in Kabul, specifically asked the Bush administration for more troops for Afghanistan, but was rebuffed:
“There was a saying when I got there: If you’re in Iraq and you need something, you ask for it,” McKiernan said in his first interview since being fired. “If you’re in Afghanistan and you need it, you figure out how to do without it.” By late last summer, he decided to tell George W. Bush’s White House what he knew it did not want to hear: He needed 30,000 more troops. He wanted to send some to the country’s east to bolster other U.S. forces, and some to the south to assist overwhelmed British and Canadian units in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
The Bush administration opted not to act on McKiernan’s request and instead set out to persuade NATO allies to contribute more troops.
Cheney also claimed, “Make no mistake, signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries. Waffling, while our troops on the ground face an emboldened enemy, endangers them and hurts our cause.” What endangered U.S. troops in Afghanistan was Bush and Cheney’s shift of focus to the Iraq war. Military officials have said that the Taliban was pretty much defeated in 2002, but regrouped when the Bush administration decided invade Iraq.