Murtha Calls for a Clear Afghanistan Strategy

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 2:03 pm

So here I was, ready to dutifully report on Pentagon spending priorities at the rollout for the Center for American Progress’ new military-strategy paper. Then Jack Murtha had to talk about Afghanistan.

Murtha, of course, is the powerful Democratic Pennsylvania congressman who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense, as well as being the first Vietnam veteran elected to Congress. He became an unlikely progressive hero in 2005 when he demanded the Bush administration produce a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq. Now it seems he’s reaching the point where he might do so for Afghanistan as well.

The Obama administration should start “developing an achievable strategy for Afghanistan,” Murtha said at the CAP event this afternoon. “That’s the key point: achievable.” Murtha ran through the litany of foreign military defeats in Afghanistan since 1834, saying he’s been reading “nine books” on the subject, and remarking on his meetings with the Soviet-invasion-era muhajideen in Pakistan in the 1980s. “We’re facing very different [forces] in Afghanistan, a very different culture in Afghanistan than in Iraq.” He worried about sending four brigade combat teams to the country next year “without a plan.”

Murtha stopped well short of calling for a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan. But if the U.S. is going to remain without a clear strategic goal in south Asia, calls for withdrawal — understandably — will be a short logical step away. Sam Stein reported in the Huffington Post on Tuesday that the left is starting to grow agitated about a troop buildup in Afghanistan without defined strategic goals. Add Murtha as another example.

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