The Bush Administration's Afghan Follies Road Show
The Bush Administration's overseas Afghan Follies tour continues. You know the story, by now: with the Administration having incompetently allowed Osama bin Laden to get away, and having disastrously failed to win the war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently decided to blame NATO, then blame Germany, and then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took her own turn at blaming our allies for the Administration's own failures. It would be funny if it weren't so dangerous. And it just keeps getting worse. You see, Gates has apparently given it all some thought.
From the Associated Press:
Lingering anger in Europe over the U.S. invasion of Iraq explains why some allies are reluctant to heed U.S. calls for more combat troops in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday. It was his first public acknowledgment of such a link to the Iraq war.
Gates said he would attempt in a speech here Sunday at an international security conference to decouple perceptions of the Iraq war, in which NATO has no fighting role, from views of Afghanistan, where NATO is in charge of the fighting but has fallen short on commanders' requests for more troops.
On a flight to Munich from Vilnius, Lithuania, where he attended two days of NATO talks dominated by Afghanistan, Gates associated Iraq with what lay behind Europe's general skepticism about fighting in Afghanistan.
"From our perspective, I worry that for many Europeans the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are confused," he told reporters traveling with him, implicitly acknowledging a political cost of the Iraq invasion.
"I think they combine the two," he added. "Many of them I think have a problem with our involvement in Iraq and project that to Afghanistan and don't understand the very different — for them — very different kind of threat" posed by al-Qaida in Afghanistan, as opposed to the militant group in Iraq that goes by the same name and is thought to be led by foreign terrorists linked to al-Qaida.
Yes. Perceptions need to be decoupled. Our allies are confused. Our allies are combining the two missions.
Perhaps the Secretary needs to be reminded of this, from the New York Times, last August:
President Bush’s critics have long contended that the Iraq war has diminished America’s effort in Afghanistan, which the administration has denied, but an examination of how the policy unfolded within the administration reveals a deep divide over how to proceed in Afghanistan and a series of decisions that at times seemed to relegate it to an afterthought as Iraq unraveled.
Statements from the White House, including from the president, in support of Afghanistan were resolute, but behind them was a halting, sometimes reluctant commitment to solving Afghanistan’s myriad problems, according to dozens of interviews in the United States, at NATO headquarters in Brussels and in Kabul, the Afghan capital.
At critical moments in the fight for Afghanistan, the Bush administration diverted scarce intelligence and reconstruction resources to Iraq, including elite C.I.A. teams and Special Forces units involved in the search for terrorists. As sophisticated Predator spy planes rolled off assembly lines in the United States, they were shipped to Iraq, undercutting the search for Taliban and terrorist leaders, according to senior military and intelligence officials.
So, yeah: maybe lingering anger in Europe over the U.S. invasion of Iraq explains why some allies are reluctant to heed U.S. calls for more combat troops in Afghanistan. Because it undermined the mission in Afghanistan. The only mission that actually had a semblance of a rationale. And maybe our allies also have some anger developing for being blamed by the Administration for its own failures. Would you blame them?