“This is not a conventional war,” Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “There are different geographical areas that we’re fighting this war in and there are political issues that are far-and-away the most difficult that we’ve encountered probably in any conflict we’ve ever been in.”
The Georgia lawmaker added, “You have the most corrupt government that we’ve ever dealt with from a conflict standpoint. And until you provide some stability and some confidence in the Afghan people about the way forward from a governing standpoint, then I think . . . we could win militarily and still have a very ugly victory.”
Another Armed Services Committee member, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., largely agreed with Chambliss’ assessment.
“The most challenging aspect of this whole strategy is the civilian, diplomatic aspects,” Reed, who joined Chambliss on the broadcast, told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. “As you point out, the military aspects are pretty clear cut. We’re going in and we’re already making success in terms of disrupting the Taliban very effectively. There’ll be more [military] actions in the south. But the real key is the diplomatic and political capacity of the Afghanis.”
Despite their concerns about Afghanistan’s government, both lawmakers said the United States has no choice but to stand behind Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
“He’s the elected president – democratic, elected president,” Reed told Crowley. “He has to succeed. We have to help him. That burden is, at this point, I think unknown. We can’t change horses. We’ve got to make sure that he does the job he’s been elected to do.”
Chambliss said that while Karzai appears “very weak … he’s the best we’ve got and he’s been elected by the Afghan people and we have an obligation to recognize that, respect that and support him.”
President Obama tapped Petraeus to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal after relieving McChrystal of duty amid a story of controversy over Rolling Stone magazine's profile of McChrystal in which the general and his closest subordinates were quoted as criticizing and being disrespectful of some senior members of Obama's national security team.
With Petraeus set for likely confirmation to replace McChrystal, some political observers and lawmakers on Capitol Hill have turned their attention to whether Obama should also replace the top U.S. civilians and diplomats involved in the Afghanistan operation. Asked about this issue Sunday, Chambliss was open to the idea.
“Well, I think that ought to be looked at,” he told Crowley.
But, Reed disagreed saying, “I think they’ve got a team now in place that can get the job done. I think they’ll retain the confidence of the president and now they have to work together.”