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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dem Senator: There Would Be No Afghan Dilemma If Bush Had Caught Bin Laden

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-Mich.) insisted on Sunday that, had it not been for the Bush administration's failure to catch Osama bin Laden in 2001, there likely would be no debate about sending more troops to Afghanistan.

Addressing a new Senate Foreign Relations Committee report claiming bin Laden was nearly captured by U.S. forces at Tora Bora, Levin argued that had the capture taken place, "there would be a good chance we would not have forces or need to have forces [in Afghanistan]."

"This has been kind of well known for some time," Levin added. "We took our eye off the ball instead of moving in on him at Tora Bora, the previous administration decided to move its forces to Iraq. It was a mistake then. I think this report of the Foreign Relations committee just sort of reinforces that."

Released on Sunday, the SFRC report [pdf] provides a harsh indictment of the Bush administration's actions in the early stages of the search for bin Laden.

"Removing the Al Qaeda leader from the battlefield eight years ago would not have eliminated the worldwide extremist threat," reads the executive summary. "But the decisions that opened the door for his escape to Pakistan allowed bin Laden to emerge as a potent symbolic figure who continues to attract a steady flow of money and inspire fanatics world-wide. The failure to finish the job represents a lost opportunity that forever altered the course of the conflict in Afghanistan and the future of international terrorism, leaving the American people more vulnerable to terrorism, laying the foundation for today's protracted Afghan insurgency and inflaming the internal strife now endangering Pakistan. Al Qaeda shifted its locus across the border into Pakistan, where it has trained extremists linked to numerous plots, including the July 2005 transit bombings in London and two recent aborted attacks involving people living in the United States. The terrorist group's resurgence in Pakistan has coincided with the rising violence orchestrated in Afghanistan by the Taliban, whose leaders also escaped only to re-emerge to direct today's increasingly lethal Afghan insurgency."
Afghanistan Surtax Proposal Sparks Internal GOP Fight
Two former advisers to George W. Bush had a spirited debate on Sunday morning over the possibility of a surtax to pay for a troop escalation in Afghanistan.

Appearing on ABC's "This Week," Dan Senor, a neoconservative war hawk who served as Bush's spokesman in Iraq, called proposals for taxing the rich to pay for the war a backdoor effort to derail any surge in forces. He was opposed by another Bush hand, former communications honcho Matthew Dowd -- a GOP traditionalist -- who said it was unfair to have an increase in troops without a shared social sacrifice.

The whole exchange is worthwhile, but the below portion was particularly illuminating:
GOP Obama Ally: Let's Put Health Care On Hold To Deal With Afghanistan
Pity Georgie, and Dick didn't deal with Afganistan for the 8 years they were in office
One of President Barack Obama's closest Republican allies in the Senate urged him to put health care reform on the backburner and focus on Afghanistan.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), a trusted GOP voice on foreign policy matters, told CNN's "State of the Union" that in light of a forthcoming increase in troops to Afghanistan, Democrats should turn their attention to matters of war and money.

"[W]e're not going to do that debating health care and the Senate for three weeks through all sorts of strategies and so forth," said the Indiana Republican. "The war is terribly important. Jobs and our economy are terribly important. So this may be an audacious suggestion, but I would suggest we put aside the health care debate until next year, the same way we put cap and trade and climate change and talk now about the essentials, the war and money."

The remark seemed to fit in well with an overarching Republican strategy of delaying health care reform talks. And Lugar received immediate pushback from his co-panelist, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.).

"Absolutely not," said the Rhode Island Democrat. "I think we're in the midst of probably the most significant debate and conclusion with legislation that we've ever had. And the health care debate is essential to our economic future. There are businesses and individuals each year pay more and more for health care, it's become unaffordable. We have to go ahead and conclude this debate. To stop now would be stopping on the edge, I think, of significant reform, which is so important for the country. And frankly, I think, it's ironic. Under the Bush administration, there was no serious debate about Afghanistan. That was relegated to the sidelines. There was no attempt to pay for it. And suddenly, now, that becomes a critical need that we put aside health care. I don't think so. I think we have to push forward."


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