August 23rd, 2009
12:32 PM ET
5 years ago

Republican: Obama must lead on Afghanistan


WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday that President Obama has not articulated a clear vision of the United States mission in Afghanistan. Sen. Richard Lugar added that once Obama’s top military officer in the country completes an assessment of troop levels, the president needs to assert leadership to get the American mission on the right path.

CNN Chief National Correspondent John King asked whether Obama has explained to the American people what the U.S. strategy is in the war-torn country. Lugar bluntly replied “No. And I think everyone waits for Gen. [Stanley] McChrystal to give, really, the outline of where we’re headed – how many troops and whatever else is going to be required.”

Citing recent polling suggesting the public is beginning to tire of the war in Afghanistan, Lugar had a bit of advice for Obama.

“The president really has to face the fact that his own leadership here is critical. He really can’t just leave this to the Congress, to Gen. McChrystal and say ‘folks, discuss this’ after the report comes in.”

Maryland Democrat Sen. Ben Cardin, who also sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, rejected the notion that Obama has not stated a mission in Afghanistan.

“Clearly the president is defining our mission to go after the terrorists,” Cardin said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “We didn’t choose this war. They attacked us. We need to make sure that Afghanistan – and, quite frankly, the border with Pakistan – is not a safe haven for terrorists. That should be our objective and we now need to know as far as resources to accomplish that mission.”

Connecticut Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, formerly a Democrat, disagreed with Lugar. “I think Obama has been strong and clear on Afghanistan,” Lieberman told King. “The president came in and basically recommitted to what he had said during the campaign last year – that his was a war of necessity, that we were struck from Afghanistan when the Taliban was in charge on September 11, 2001, and we can’t let the Taliban come back.”

Lieberman, who recently returned from a visit to Afghanistan with several other senators, also said Sunday it was clear Gen. McChrystal would be seeking additional troops on top of the additional 21,000 Obama has already authorized and which are starting to arrive in country.

Lieberman, who supported Republican Sen. John McCain during last year’s White House race, said he had not seen any political pressure on McChrystal not to request a significant number of additional forces for Afghanistan.

soundoff (109 Responses)
  1. Matt of Boston

    Good for Senator Lugar, one of the smartest AND INSIGHTFUL senators in Washington when it come to foreign affairs and the military, and one who very rarely goes public with statements, which speaks volumes about this very public advice to the President at this time.

    Obama cannot use campaign slogans, sound bytes, and generalistic goals when articulating the Afghanistan mission, our objectives, and giving all Americans a clear definition of victory :within a sharply defined time table. The vast majority of Americans do not want an extended presence in Afghanistan - thus far, Obama has not defined any mission critera except in the broadest of terms; has not extablished military or political objectives or deadlines other than broad imprecise statements; and cannot and has not defined victory for the US.

    Can anyone say VIETNAM?

    August 23, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  2. Lynne

    Where were these Republican voices when Bush?Cheney abandoned the war in Afghanistan to invade a country that had NOTHING to do with 911??

    The convenient lose of memory for what the Bush administration did NOT do to protect the economy, its lack of vision and improvement with infrastructure and internal conditions and with foreign affairs is truly astounding. That the press is refusing to hold them accountable is just as bad.

    August 23, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  3. michael

    Come on...how about some REAL republican advice like invade Venezuela or Brazil for all of their oil (under the guise of creating political climate change). That's REAL republican advice.

    August 23, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  4. Joanne

    Just what we need, another voice from the part of NO!

    August 23, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  5. Lisa from Tampa

    Where was this insight when Bush and Cheney created this war????

    August 23, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  6. CNN = Moveon.org

    Obama is not a leader so this is really hard advice for him to listen to. Lynne, you show your ignorance when you regurgitate all the left wing talking points and make false assertions. Unless, you are smart and just know that you are lying, which could be as well. Anything is possible with the Democrats, (the party of blame everyone else but themselves).

    August 23, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  7. Hillary Warned Us

    Hillary tried to warn us – Obama isn't ready. But let's hope he can find his footing in Afghanistan and Iraq, because too much is at stake. We must all wish him well.

    August 23, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  8. Rick

    Democrats are so cute in their blind allegiance to such a naive and inexperienced man. Don't get me wrong, Bush was horrible because he was not a fiscal conservative, but the current administration is so much more dangerous.

    August 23, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  9. Patrick

    I don't mind if people give advice but the issues that are happening are mostly in our country. Even though Afghanistan is having problems with the Taliban, there is corruption, disorganization, and violence. Even our military there are having issues dealing with the Taliban. We are becoming disorganized, making mistakes, and using our mistakes against us. I don't know how it works in the army but we have to fix ourselves first.

    August 23, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  10. Ralph

    The liberals in this country are starting to realize that Obama is nothing more than en empty shirt. The only thing worse would be to have Biden in charge. Then we'd have a filandering empty shirt. Cutesy campaign lines and slogans and being fairly articluate is not what is going to get the job done. Add to this the fact that Obama's far left advisors are afraid to stand up to him, afraifd of losing their cushy jobs. Granted, President Bush's administration caused a lot of the problems that we're now having to deal with but the problems and their negative impacts are only multiplting under Obama. His lies and his smoking mirrors will catch up. He can't even keep the lies and his flip flopping positions strraight. One day last week he stated how great Medicare was and the next he said it was a failing program. Flip flopping at his best and no matter how much hateful rhetoric will come out of his supportes on this board and elsewhere, it changes nothing except to try to mask the problem-Obama. Hopefully he will be just an unplaeasant memory in time for us to turn this mess around.

    August 23, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  11. JohnBoy

    Just going to be another Obama failure, like the other programs he has tried.

    What do you expect from a empty suite.

    August 23, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  12. kgeukes

    Why is the party of NO talking about what the President should be doing about the war? Go back into your negative holes until whenever and let us straighten out the mess you so willingly got us into!!!!!! Go out and wee-wee up your people because apparently that's all you can do. You no longer have any power!!!

    August 23, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  13. Independent

    These repubs really makes me sick

    August 23, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  14. Career serviceman

    Just what we need alright: guidance and comments from liberals who have never served and understand the concept of national defense. Democrats have never had a good track record for administering anything dealing with miltary matters. Carter left the hostages in Iran until Reagan brought them home. Clinton and Democrat congressmen had the intel reports when Al Qaeda began to organize and nothing was done. And after hearing all sorts of criticism from the left on the war, the only "change" has been to following the Republican plan of bringing Iraq to a close once stabilized and now shift towards Afghanistan without a clear intent.

    And at the same time, the deficit is skyrocketing, money that we don't have is being printed in the name of stimulus, new jobs aren't being created, my wife who served her country is not getting her benefits while those who work at the VA get bonuses, tens of thousands of Americans lose their jobs each month, and Democrats become angry when citizens demand transparency which was a major part of the Democratic campaign.

    Democrats and liberals had no problems dishing out criticism in the past, and I do admit that much of it was valid. But now they can't take it when they are being questioned about their lack of accountability, transparency, and ethical conduct. Guess what liberals, suck it up! This definitely wasn't the change that anyone expected, or that you promised. 2010 is going to be an outstanding year!

    August 23, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  15. renobill

    Well if there's one thing the repukes can do it's give war advice. Now if you're talking diplomacy, and looking for peaceful solutions that's another story.

    August 23, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  16. Tony

    Its amazing how some democrats are still angry even after winning the election. America is all about opposing view points and freedom of speech. You need to have opposing views to give you something to think about, being a part of a political party does not make you racist or socialist, you won the election calm down.

    August 23, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  17. Reality

    Obama would do well to listen. The facts: Bush's surge in Iraq worked, but Obama squandered it and Iraq is reverting back to chaos. Obama is strictly following Bush's not-so-good policy in India, Africa and China. Obama tried a surge in Afghanistan which failed miserably. Obama and his democrats are legitimizing North Korea, Saudi despots, and Hamas. Every time Obama has done what republicans say he has been successful, every time he sticks to the hyper left Pelosi/Reid agenda he fails miserably. Much like the country.

    August 23, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  18. Drew Williams

    Quote from Lugar: "He really can’t just leave this to the Congress, to Gen. McChrystal and say ‘folks, discuss this’ after the report comes in.”

    Thank God for people like Lugar. Abdicating his war-time leadership role to Congress and the generals is EXACTLY what President Bush did throughout his managing of the Iraq war, falling back again and again on some supposed unwillingness to micro-manage from the Oval office.

    It was BS then and if this is the path Obama is following, its BS now.

    Lugar remains one of the few voices of intellectual honesty left in the GOP.

    August 23, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  19. barb

    Obama could not lead anything, his inexperience shows more everyday. He hires people, appoints people, drops things in the laps of congress and then he goes out and preaches too people. What does he actually do except try too be popular , hoping that is enough.

    August 23, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  20. eolufemi

    Ugh, he said quite specifically that the goal is to stabilize Afghanistan, so that the country can take on the terrorists themselves.

    The question is whether stabilizing Afghanistan and attacking the Taliban is a worthwhile goal. Personally, I think we should be focusing on lifting these guys up economically and the military should be there to protect those assets, and to burn the poppy fields.

    August 23, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  21. Beth

    yea – I'm a Democrat and generally an Obama supporter, but I tend to agree with Matt of Boston on this one. Lugar is one of the "good guys" – moderate, thinking, and insightful. Obama has a participatory style of leadership that works great in some situations (e.g., with foreign relations), but not so great with others (e.g., trying to get health care passed). In this, he seems to be the complete opposite of Bush. My hope with Afghanistan was that they would just get bin Laden and get out (if that was the objective). But at this point, I really have no idea what we're doing there. Do we even have a mission?

    August 23, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  22. Nick

    I feel a sense of deja vu...Iraq, Bosnia, Persian Gulf...

    Can't we elect a president who doesn't want to get us involved in a pointless war that bears little relation to our national security? The job in Afghanistan was never completed, but that doesn't mean that re-initiating full military operations there is going to be worth the human and financial costs. We don't even know if Osama is alive; if he is, he is likely in Pakistan, where we can't really do military operations without permission of the democratically elected government there. And provoking nuclear Pakistan would be a huge, huge mistake.

    August 23, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  23. Joe Fattal

    I don't see any difference between Obama and Bush as far as war is concerned. The republicans might very well advice President Obama on how to win the war in Afghanistan in a timely manner. But also the democrates might very well establish another military objective in case a 2012 victory becomes glim.

    August 23, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  24. Barb

    People describing President Obama as "empty shirt"... and "empty suite"... (that was the spelling)...

    This from those who have "empty" ideas.... i.e., NONE!!!

    August 23, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  25. Off Topic

    A strong public plan, i.e. "medicare for all" WILL SAVE BILLIONS.

    Stop the health insurance lobby lies.

    August 23, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
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