On Wednesday U.S. senators from both political parties asked the president's representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke what in the world the goal could be for the ongoing war. He had no answer.
Senator Russ Feingold pointed out that our ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, opposed the escalation (at least until he agreed to oppose his own views). Holbrooke had no response.
Senator John Kerry noted that Taliban assassinations in Kandahar began when the United States announced a coming assault there. How then could the assault stop the killings? Holbrooke had no explanation.
I was reminded of General Stanley McChrystal's comment at a press conference in Washington together with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. A reporter asked if those who helped the US forces tended to get their heads sliced off. McChrystal replied that they did but that this was only to be expected.
Senator Kerry on Wednesday noted that the assault on Marja had been a test for Kandahar and had failed. So why was an assault on Kandahar moving ahead? Who knows. Not Holbrooke.
Senators pointed out that terrorism has been increasing globally during the global war on terror. Holbrooke did not dispute it.
Holbrooke did dispute any comparison between Afghanistan and Vietnam, claiming that the Vietnam War was not about national security, but that the Afghan War is. How so? Well, whoever got to Ambassador Eikenberry apparently got to Holbrooke too. Holbrooke now claims, but didn't used to, that if the Taliban were in power it would allow al Qaeda to operate out of Afghanistan.
But Holbrooke claimed no particular progress or success, mostly praising the team he's assembled to "support the military." Nine years in, the best we can do is claim to be putting a strong team on the field. Well, that and blaming the Afghans for failing to trust and fight for foreigners, which is forcing us to "Americanize" the American occupation of their country. Also, nine years in, the COIN (counter-insurgency) strategy that requires 80% of our investment to be civilian contrasts with the reality of 5%, and that 5% is to "support the military."
Oh, and Holbrooke promised that Karzai is upgrading his anti-corruption office. Next I suppose BP will be designing a better EPA.
Not every important point that could have come up did during the portion of Wednesday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that I heard. Here are a few more:
The war is illegal, and the strikes into Pakistan are illegal.
The blowback in Times Square involved a would-be bomber whose father used to guard nuclear weapons.
Terrorism in Uganda and around the world is encouraged, not prevented, by occupying Afghanistan and by the prisoner abuse there at Bagram.
The Afghans we're training to "stand up" are starting to shoot their trainers.
Last year's escalation was followed by an 87% increase in violence, according to the Pentagon.
U.S. troops are increasingly killing themselves, perhaps in part because they have no better idea than the senators who fund the slaughter what its purpose is.