June 20th, 2010
09:23 AM ET
12 years ago

Success in Afghanistan operation must be defined, Lugar says

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/06/20/art.lugariso0620.cnn.jpg caption="'We've never got to that point,' Sen. Lugar told CNN when asked how he'd know what success in Afghanistan looked like."]
Washington (CNN) – The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says that, even after more than nine years of war, there is no clear definition of success in the U.S. military’s operation in Afghanistan.

“If you had to say on this day I will know that the U.S. has succeeded and we can begin bringing troops home, what would that day look like?,” CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley asked Lugar in an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“Well, your question implies that we've defined success and we've never got to that point,” Lugar replied. “That's a part of our problem, that we're going to have to, as a government, whether it be the president or the Congress, define success in a way in which the American people find this to be satisfying. Otherwise, we'll continue to argue about the date of withdrawal or how fast or how - whether we surge more or less - without ever having defined exactly what it is we hope from Afghanistan.”

Related: Failure isn't an option, Dem says

In the same interview, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee proposed the kind of definition that Lugar said was lacking. Asked about the Obama administration’s July 2011 benchmark for beginning to draw down U.S. troops, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said the situation has to allow the Afghanistan government and people to build their country.

“I think the metric of success, to a great extent, has to be a measure of security and stability within the country, so that a government can grow, can move out of a corrupt phase, a nation can be built by its own people. And you have to enable that environment,” Feinstein said.

“You clearly can't enable that environment when you've got people that destroy schools, bomb hospitals, bomb roads, do those kinds of things,” Feinstein added, referring to the insurgency challenging the Afghan government and destabilizing the war torn country.

In recent testimony before Congress, Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, said President Obama’s July 2011 target date was a conditions-based benchmark.

"It is important that July 2011 be seen for what it is: the date when a process begins, based on conditions; not the date when the U.S. heads for the exits," Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Moreover, my agreement with the president's decisions was based on projections of conditions in July 2011. And needless to say, we're doing all that is humanly possible to achieve those conditions."

Speaking at a NATO meeting in Europe recently, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan, said operations against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan will happen "more slowly than we had originally anticipated."

"I think it will take a number of months for this to play out. But I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I think it's more important that we get it right than we get it fast," McChrystal said.

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. GI Joe

    If the war in Afghanistan hadn't been put on hold so W could get the man that tried to kill his daddy, the whole mess might be over now.

    We'll never know because the "decider" had his assistant-liars help him do something that could have been accomplished by a few under-cover experts without the harm to our young people and our economy.

    June 20, 2010 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  2. chris

    All through the Bush years, Democrats kept asking for some sort of benchmarks regarding the two wars. But the Republicans insisted that benchmarks would somehow aid the terrorists. Instead, the GOP just kept repeating the empty slogan of "stay the course." Of course, the real reason they were so set against benchmarks is that they didn't want any sort of measure that would show them to found wanting. So without any specific goals to give direction and focus to move towards, Afghanistan and Iraq became quagmires lasting for years and costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars.

    June 20, 2010 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  3. Dennis in AZ

    I love this. When in doubt, redefine the mission. The best and worst part of our military is that they have to do what the politicians tell them–even when it's just plain stupid. It's definitely part of the Liberal agenda to make everyone a winner–so moving the goal post closer is not suprising. We never should have sent troops to Iraq or Afghanistan in the first place, but hind sight is always 20/20.

    June 20, 2010 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  4. Donkey Party

    Exactly GI Joe! And one of the biggest mistakes (besides attacking Iraq), was withdrawing combat troops from Tora Bora in Afghanistan, so they could go fight the war of "choice" in Iraq. Most military leaders in the Afghan theater agree that Bin Laden was at Tora Bora, and the re-deployment of troops to Iraq allowed Bin Laden to escape. Iraq was the main counterbalance to the threat of Iran, so put another feather in W's cap for empowering Iran. And for those Right-wingers that are critical of everything President Obama does, let's never let them forget who the real Ditherer in Chief was, George W. Bush.

    June 20, 2010 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  5. brett james

    Candy Crowley had Feinstein and Luger on the ropes regarding Afghanistan. She stepped back to the middle of the ring out of deferance I assume. In the new age of consequence, journalists need to pay far less attention to stature and far more to the questions of the American people. So much for hard-hitting, relevant journalism.

    June 20, 2010 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  6. sbkilb

    "Failure isn't an option"? We have already failed. It has totally baffled me how we can fight a "polically correct" war. We put our soldiers in harms way, tell them not to fire back if civilians are near.. what is going on? Harry Truman dropped the "bomb" for the greater good in WW11 here we know where the enemy is but can't do anything. We aren't dealing with people who have any morals, integrity or plain care about coming into the 21st century. If they shoot at you take them out. In my opinion this "new offensive' that we told them about is going to be very bad. We send the soldiers to fight a hiding behind civilian enemy. Forget winning the hearts and minds, it isn't going to happen. Drop bombs,sent in drones and minimize the risk to our soldiers and then we should get the hell out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 20, 2010 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  7. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    You cannot define success unless the people of Afghan want success. Afghan was a failure before we got there and will be a failure after we leave.

    June 20, 2010 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  8. GonzoinHouston

    OK, here's a definition of winning in Afghanistan:

    Al-Queda reduced to a minor local issue

    Bin Laden (remember him?) dead

    The US on good terms or paying better bribes to whatever local warlords can hold off the Taliban

    Democracy? Karzai? Honest, effective Afghan government? A reliable ally? Fuhgeddaboutit!

    June 20, 2010 10:41 am at 10:41 am |