June 27th, 2010
01:01 PM ET
12 years ago

Senators spotlight civilian, diplomatic challenges in Afghanistan

Washington (CNN) – Just days before hastily scheduled confirmation hearings for Gen. David Petraeus, two senators who will vet his nomination to be the next commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan said U.S. forces may succeed in pushing aside the Taliban but the war-torn country could still suffer from political and governmental instability.

“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.”

Filed under: Afghanistan • issues • Jack Reed • Saxby Chambliss • State of the Union
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Gil

    Karzai does not deserve any American support for his corruption. The Taliban Freedom Fighters only want to do what their ancestors have done for 130 years and that is to rid the country of foreign occupation. They did it to the British after 130 years and the Russians after 10 years and now they are doing it to us after 11 years. We need to get out of Afghanistan and should never have been pulled into this war with bush;s lies!

    June 27, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  2. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    If we can remove McChrystal I see no reason why Karzai can't be removed. Karzai has proven untrustworthy and incompetent because there is no government in Afghan. Karzai is no more than a prop standing in the way of the village leaders and Afghan people who know how to fight and were fighting long before we entered their country. These people don't need to be trained to fight, they already know how and we shouldn't be supplying them with modern warfare to be used against us. Enough is enough and it's time to let them be.

    June 27, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  3. Uncle S.

    The relevant word here is hubris. The US thinks they can defeat the Afghans. Look at history and see who has ever done this. First we back them decades ago against the Soviets. Now we fight them. Put yourself in their place. How would you feel?

    June 27, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  4. Rick McDaniel

    You cannot win, unless you are willing to do what is necessary to totally eliminate the Taliban........and frankly, I don't think this government has the guts to do that.

    June 27, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  5. GANDY

    Whether you agree with the war or not, you have to hope that Afghanistan can be improved, at least a little.

    They're a state without a national identity... Perhaps they should be more decentralized? The "tribal" identity seems to be stronger than any nationalism.

    June 27, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  6. thor

    I don't even believe that Sen. Jack Reed believes some of the things he was saying in this interview with Crowley. There is no way we can win this war against the Taliban with the policy that Obama has put in place.So to wait around to next summer to start to get out just doesn't make sense.We should get out ,now.So much for the good war that Obama talked about.Karzai isn't someone you can rely on.And the same people that are praising Gen.Petraeus and talking about Obama's "brilliant" move are the same peole that were complaining just a short time ago.They refered to him as Gen.Be-tray-us.

    June 27, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. Keep that body bag count in front of Obama....

    This is Obama's war. He escalated it. And now he has to account for those Americans coming home in body bags every day.

    June 27, 2010 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  8. Victim of GOP Taliban

    It would look like Bin Laden's head on a platter for display. Too bad Bush said in a press conference that he really didn't care about hunting Bin Laden and that he was only concerned about Iraq.

    June 27, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  9. valwayne

    Obama clearly has no idea what he is doing. Let's hope that Petraeus can bring it together and win!

    June 27, 2010 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |

    Obama's strategy for Afghanistan is in (in his own word) "Twitters".

    June 27, 2010 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  11. w l jones

    Knowledge is learnt not bought ..A well thoughtout accessment of the situation on the ground over there sir.

    June 27, 2010 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  12. Larry

    I agree with Chambliss and Reed. It's a mess.

    Our biggest concern in Afghanistan is letting the Pakistani nukes fall into the hands of alQaeda and the Taliban. This wasn't a concern until 9/11 when the muslim extremists formally declared their jihad on the world.

    Until Afghanistan and Pakistan prove they're better able to take care of their own countries and supply their own security, unfortunately, we're going to be there.

    June 27, 2010 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |