June 20th, 2010
09:20 AM ET
5 years ago

'Failure is not an option,' Dem says of Afghanistan


Washington (CNN) – The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee is painting a grim picture of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, but Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, insists that the effort must continue.

“Failure is not an option,” Feinstein said in an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Related: Success must be defined, Lugar says

Feinstein agreed that the training of the Afghan army continues to face significant challenges, but she said the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater is too strategically important to U.S interests not to continue the U.S. military operation.

“Also, there's one, I think, irreversible truth - the Taliban is on a march,” Feinstein also told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. “If you lose Afghanistan, Pakistan is the next step.”

She added, “So the question becomes, either the Taliban becomes a force for good, participates in government - we're not there yet - or it has to be defeated.”

Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who joined Feinstein during the interview, agreed that training Afghan security forces remains a challenge.

“Well, we don't say good-bye [to the Afghans], we say right now to the Afghans that we want to train you so that you are able to police your own territory in order to govern,” Lugar told Crowley. “Now, as Dianne Feinstein has said, this is tough to do. You have almost everybody who is an illiterate to begin with. The allies that we had hoped for to send trainers haven't sent very many. Our own trainers are - are too few.

“So, as a result, this is going more slowly. I sympathize with General McChrystal and General Petraeus, as people press them for dates. They're saying ‘one thing at a time.’ We've really got to get the training done. It's going more slowly.”

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, recently said that American-led operations against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan will happen "more slowly than we had originally anticipated."

And testifying before a congressional committee late last week, Gen. David Petraeus, who heads the U.S. Central Command, said "The conduct of a counterinsurgency operation is a roller-coaster experience. There are setbacks as well as areas of progress or successes. But the trajectory in my view has generally been upward, despite the tough losses, despite the setbacks."

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Gil

    Let me make a prediction. The bad guys in Afghanistan, besides Al Quida are the Taliban? Wrong! When we gave the Taliban arms to get rid of the Russians they were the good guys. To the Afghan people they have been the good guys trying to rid the country of foreign occupation for over 130 years. To me they are the partiots of their country and we are the bad guys, the foreign invaders occupying their country now for almost 10 years of the 130+.

    June 20, 2010 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  2. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    I truly loathe that truly idiotic assertion that 'Failure is not an option.' Of course it's an option–the best you can do is prepare for it and minimise the odds of it occurring.

    For the most part, the only people who ever use that phrase are those with no capacity for logical thought. Of course, we are talking about a politician here, and a Democrat at that, neither of which categories of people are renowned for their perspicacity.

    June 20, 2010 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  3. charlie from the North

    News Flash!!!

    Bush already failed there when he swindled us into invading Iraq. Afganistan could have been more like West Germany and less like Beruit if he had no dropped the ball. Failure has happened already. Can the Obama Administration salvage the situation the way it did our economy?
    .... Not likely because it is more complicated, But it is worth trying. We owe that much to the Afgan people.

    June 20, 2010 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  4. once upon a horse

    is there a more OVERUSED idiom than this? Somebody tell me when failure actually IS an option.

    June 20, 2010 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  5. Enoughalready

    Corruption slowing progress in Afgghanistan? Tell the leader " OK, get your act together, or we are leaving. If it goeas bad, that will be on your watch. If we have to come back, it is not going to be pretty".

    June 20, 2010 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  6. Enoughalready

    Corruption slowing progress in Afgghanistan? Tell the leader " OK, get your act together, or we are leaving. If it goes bad, that will be on your watch. If we have to come back, it is not going to be pretty".

    June 20, 2010 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  7. Obama Fumble

    Failure occurred when Obama said that the US would be leaving Afghanistan in 2011. While that was NEVER practical, it stepped back efforts in Afghanistan because "leaders" began positioning themselves to survive when the Taliban and remants of the Northern Alliance resume their holds on the country. It also caused the Taliban to step up its efforts to make it appear that they pushed the US out. Maybe it's time Obama started thinking in terms of policy instead of politics... especially when American lives are at stake.

    June 20, 2010 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  8. g

    well said charlie of the north

    June 20, 2010 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  9. Jaimondrow

    The more things 'change', the more they stay the same.

    June 20, 2010 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  10. Randy

    The failure has already occurred and continues every day Obama and Congress continue to support the Bush Afghanistan policy.

    June 20, 2010 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  11. Adalbert

    What are these people talking about? We already failed in Afghanistan.

    June 20, 2010 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  12. welches, oregon

    This is the same failed logic The Shrub pushed down our throats. At this point who cares – BRING OUR TROOPS HOME

    June 20, 2010 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  13. Paul

    People don't seem to following the changes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We have employed new stratigies and tactics under this administration. There is some evidence that these methods are working. The President said he would review these policies in December and that seems to me the time to have this disscusion. We drifted for eight years under the previous administration while the cancer that is the taliban grew in this region.

    The policies being pursued now are good for our security and they are helpful to the people of Afghanistan that want to live a peaceful and secure life, free from fear of the Taliban. Our cause became Just, when we made it a goal to protect innocent lives and the civilian populations. Thats when we as Americans are at are best and when our values shine.

    June 20, 2010 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  14. Zelmer Zootinheimer

    These people are confused. They are operating under the assumption that stability comes from the top down. They think that if you can get a strong government in place then you will have a happy, productive and obedient people. That isn't how it happened here in the US. We started with an educated and self disciplined population that then created government to protect their rights. They will continue to fail in Iraq and Afghanistan for as long as they are there.

    June 20, 2010 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  15. Peter Q. Wolfe

    I think eventually we will win but only when the recovery looks less American and more regional. We need more support from the muslim community in the area for stabilizing the local area. Pakistan has stepped up just other party members need t oas well but we should have realized that partnership would be more difficult. I mean what nation over there isn't a theacracy, illiterate, and in general aren't considered a core country? Seriously they need to do the cultural healing in that area with commercials, radio broadcasting and other sources of media denouncing taliban and alqaeda not us and mean it when they say it.

    June 20, 2010 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  16. Zaggs

    With Obama in charge failure is very much an option.
    Don't worry in half a year Obama will pronounced the Taliban reformed and we can leave, every democrat in congress will blindly agree and when republicans point out that they're lying democrats will throw out a red herring akin to apologizing to BP is far worse then not responding to the oil spill because you had a round of golf to get to.

    June 20, 2010 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  17. GonzoinHouston

    Winning is theoretically possible both in Afghanistan and over current terrorism threats, but the way to do it is far too complex for any politician's sound bite. Really winning in this mess will require an effective energy policy, major changes in our relationships with both current friends and enemies, and a new set of tactics for the military. We will never win if our only approach is doing more of what hasn't worked in the past.

    June 20, 2010 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  18. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Afghan was a failure before we got there and will be a failure after we leave, so what difference does it make. You cannot defined success unless the people of Afghan want to be successful.

    June 20, 2010 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  19. Tanker06

    So, the Dems are now using the old "Domino theory"?

    June 20, 2010 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  20. Gerry NH

    If Obama's administration salvages the situation the way it did the economy then the United States is screwed.

    June 20, 2010 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  21. Unsustainable

    I agree. Failure is not an option for taking back the House.

    June 20, 2010 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  22. jackola

    Obviously Bush never read the history of Afghanistan when he ordered the invasion. No invader ever succeeded in occupying that country – not Alexander the Great, not the British, not the Russians. They kicked every invaders' ass, which obviously is happening to us now. Thank you Mr. Bush for your naivete.

    June 20, 2010 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  23. Kevin Collins

    – "What are these people talking about? We already failed in Afghanistan." -

    Just like the Russians failed there in the '80s. You just can't defeat a quintessentially-determined enemy like the Taliban.

    June 20, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  24. brown

    Feinstein -> “So the question becomes, either the Taliban becomes a force for good, participates in government – we're not there yet – or it has to be defeated.”

    Here you see we've already surrendered the country back to the Taliban. Now, will a trillion dollars in mineral wealth and billions more in opium slaes, the Jihadists are going to get their nuke(s) sooner or later. The West should continue to make Medals of Restraint for their soldiers at least while their still alive.

    Condi Rice is going to be proven right. We're going to see that mushroom cloud in a major American city.

    June 20, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  25. Byrd

    Yeah, I imagine that the Russians said the exact same thing. Hannibal as well. But she's probably right: Failure's not an option. More like a certainty.

    June 20, 2010 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
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