March 29th, 2009
12:22 PM ET
5 years ago

Holbrooke: Afghanistan is no Vietnam

Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, appeared on State of the Union Sunday.
Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, appeared on State of the Union Sunday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Just days after President Obama announced his comprehensive plan for the next phase of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, a senior diplomat in the new administration sought to put to rest any comparison between Afghanistan and Vietnam wars.

Watch: Obama's 'Af-Pak' strategy

“I served in Vietnam for three and a half years and I’m aware of certain structural similarities,” Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King Sunday.

“But there’s a fundamental difference - the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese never posed any direct threat to the United States and its homeland. The people we are fighting in Afghanistan and the people they are sheltering in Western Pakistan, pose a direct threat. Those are the men of 9-11, the people who killed Benazir Bhutto and you can be sure that as we sit here today, they are planning further attacks on the United States and our allies.”


Holbrooke was responding to concerns raised by some Democrats that the President’s decision to send more troops into Afghanistan opens up the possibility of an extended and ultimately unsuccessful military mission there comparable to the failed U.S. involvement in Vietnam decades ago.

Obama recently announced his plan for dealing with Afghanistan that includes more troops and more civilian aid. The president’s plan to inject more resources into the embattled country comes as polling suggests the American public is becoming wary of the war there.

Holbrooke appeared Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union with Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. CENTCOM Commander, to discuss U.S. strategy in the Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East.

soundoff (130 Responses)
  1. A Thinker

    swin5: Your right and it was not just the russinas. So far there has been no invader that successfully ruled over Afghanistan peacefully. And yes they were Saudi Arabians. However, my question is are we in the wrong place? I mean Iraq was for oil. However, Afghainstan does not have many natural resources. Is this just another somlia conflict? The government says it is a fight for Afghan freedom, but does it really matter? Do most Americans really care about whether or not Afghans get freedom when there are many other natinos that do not ahve freedom?

    March 29, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  2. France boy

    No, what the Manchurian has is his chance to destroy the U.S. military. He, CNN, and the the other fascists in the Democrat Party are going to the play this Afghan thing in such a manner that it discredits the military and then destroys it. That is why so many of us believe that the Manchurian and CNN are treasonous in their activities.

    March 29, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  3. SD,Michigan

    The Pres is doing exactly what he promised during the campaign: end the war of choice in Iraq, and finish the war of necessity in Afghanistan/Pakistan- by using military force AND turning the afghan/pakistani people against the terrorists seeking save havens in their countries.

    March 29, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  4. Lynn

    One of the reasons Russia lost in Afghanistan is because America provbided funds and weapons to those fighting against them. In other words, America helped, once again, to create the problem that American soldiers must fight to solvbe.

    It was the same in Iraq where America provided Saddham with the weapons he used against his own people. The shortsighted foreign policy of the past must be changed with a more global, intelligent understanding.

    Thank goodness we havbe a president with a team that presents and listens to all prespectives. Funny how Republican trolls are now turning against Gates and Patraeus who they once hailed as heroes.

    March 29, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  5. John

    I guess we should all give up and let the terrorists win because fighting a war is hard work. Gosh! Hopefully the military and our government has more resolve than most of the cream puff, soft Americans who want to roll over, play dead, and hope the enemy leaves us alone.

    March 29, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  6. PK California

    Obama inherited these wars and he will end them! Because he hasn't pushed the Stop War button, everyone thinks it will go on for ever. NOT SO! Obama is a methodical person and puts a lot of thought into his actions. We are not looking for a WIN. We are looking for these countries to take over and handle their own problems. That's the difference between the last administration's policy and the present's. Who cares where the terrorists came from. We are not going out and attack every country that has a terrorist living there. They're here too. Every one has a solution. I like to think that our president and his EXPERTS have the right one!

    March 29, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  7. Gary from Alaska

    I hope the plan succeeds. What is amazing to me and is being completely ignored is the failure of our allies to maintain a level of control in Afghanistan. We took the international approach in that country that so many screamed about and look at where we are. The fact of the matter is no plan that talks of developing infrastructure and helping the needy can ever begin to succeed without security on the ground. That they put troops on the ground in an attempt to do the right thing is very commendable. But the cold hard facts of what has happened under their watch can't be brushed away.

    For those of you comparing the British and Russian failures in Afghanistan, their respective militaries were no match for the the American Solider, Sailor, Airman or Marine. I just retired from the Air Force after 21 years and can tell you there is no comparison to the intelligence, training, and equipment of our men and women that come close. The Taliban and Al Qaeda are a tough well-entrenched enemy. But given all the facts, I know our military has the ability and the know-how to decimate their enemies. I just hope that our commander in chief takes the gloves off and allows the military to do its job.

    March 29, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  8. France boy

    To PK in California – Yes, Obama will end these wars, by bringing about a loss by our military in Afghanistan. You Democrats, along with the likes of CNN, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy and other fascist groups worked overtime to make sure we were humilitated in Viet Nam. It was all about making sure the Marxist won. Americans will not allow it to happen this time. The likes of CNN, Obama and Pelosi will be brought to the bar of justice and punished with prison terms for their treachery.

    March 29, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  9. France boy

    PK – I have reread your comments a dozen times now. You are a supreme fool. You think like Obama the Manchurian. And that thinking invited 9/11.

    March 29, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  10. Sammy

    One thing that bugs me is the huge number of people that will cheer on a war so long as its easy. Then as soon as it gets tough they say 'why are we there'? When the soldiers started rolling in most of this country was cheering them all the way.

    Oh... and the reasoning in some posts here against the war in Afghanistan is because OBL et al are in Pakistan. Sounds to me like they dont have a problem with the war, just that its being fought in the wrong country and we should invade that one instead. However people are correct about learning from history, which is why the mountains havent been invaded.

    March 29, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  11. Perusing-through

    The Afghanistan War in response to 9/11 terrorist attack was the only thing and a righteous thing for the U.S to do, especially if the U.S. wants to call itself a nation among nations. The problem is, and it is so ironic, Bush took his eye off the ball too soon and left Afghanistan "unfinished" to finish the Iraq War he claimed his father had not "finished".

    March 29, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  12. Matt Paul

    Manhandler said "And where is the direct threat in Afghanistan??? Some old man hiding in a cave on a kidnet dialysis machine?"

    The democrats and obamabots are afraid that they will lash Osama Bin Laden's dialysis machine to a North Korean ballistic missle and will be fired at the US and Osama will pee on us all when he flies over. That is the only high value target in either Afghanistan or Pakistan per our president's plan

    I agree with Larry - if you take out all the poppy fields in Afghanistan the Taliban, the war lords, and Al Quaeda are all broke. Oil is to Iran as heroin is to Afghanistan. Take away the heroin industry and Afghanistan is a threat to nobody.

    March 29, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  13. Perusing-through

    XENIA wrote: "BHO promised to withdraw all troops from Iraq then goes all in in Afghanistan. Not a good thing."
    - – - – - –
    Dear Xenia; go back and replay President Obama's speeches an interviews and you will see how wrong you are. Obama has always said he would end the ill-conceived Iraq war and finish the righteous war in Afghanistan where 9/11 was launched.

    March 29, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  14. ran

    Any person who tries to compare the two have no idea of what they are talking about; all they seem to want to do is create problems that do not exist. This is not president Obama mess it is the mess of Bush and the Republicans who stood by and allow it to go on for so long.

    March 29, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  15. Perusing-through

    Afghanistan is and has always been ground-zero for the war on terror. Afghanistan is where 9/11 was launched and where the terorist supporters (Taliban) remain. Unfortunately politicians, media types, and the American people allowed Bush-Cheney lure us into Iraq, but now we have no choice to but finish the job Bush-Cheney left incomplete.

    March 29, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  16. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    For 8 years we did nothing to go after those who attacked us due to the incompetence of the Bush administration. It just confirms that Bush did nothing for 8 years but destroy our economy and strengthen our enemies.

    March 29, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  17. Simmy

    France boy,

    First, deal with Bush and Cheney. They are the reasons we went to war. At least we're going to the correct 'location' now. God bless all the efforts of our president, his admin., all our troops and their families!!!

    March 29, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  18. Willy Brown

    Change is coming 21 Jan 2013.

    March 29, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  19. P Alfonso

    What? I don't believe it. How quickly things can change. It is now the Liberals defending a war. Wow!

    March 29, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  20. g

    Mccain said he knows how to get Osama bin laden, if it is country first why don't he tell us how to get him. We would save money and lives...

    March 29, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  21. Arizonan for Obama/Biden

    At least the monetary cost of war will be in the budget and not kept a secret like the bush administration, where billions of dollars just vanished.

    March 29, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  22. Brian

    We need less self righteous know it alls like France Boy who think only in the simplest of terms and more comprehensive and thoughtful folks like the current administration to lead this nation away from self destruction. I know it takes all kinds to make up this great country, but I'm tired of such whiners like this who either don't have any given ability to conduct a critical thought (including critical introspection) or refuse to use their god given intellect for anything but selfish purpose.
    Please, give the rest of us at least an 8 year break....it seems only fair don't you think?

    March 29, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  23. CJ in FL

    Holbrooke is distancing the comparison of Afghanistan to Vietnam, and you broken records are still on the same song..."Bush went to Iraq when there was no need blah, blah, blah".

    I know it takes an element of focus, but try to consider the CURRENT discussion, and not your campaign rhetoric for the past eight years.

    March 29, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  24. Texas Teacher

    You know... I suspect the Repubs are going to just be burned up when Obama does what they could not! I truly think that is their greatest fear... and about half of why they are fighting him so much on the issue! The other half... that's their "just say no" campaign!

    March 29, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  25. Floyd in New York

    Hey what happened? I thought Obama was going to end all wars within 30 days of his administration!!

    March 29, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
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