Black Veterans Critical of Obama's Afghanistan Plans
Washington, D.C. - Veterans affiliated with the Project 21 black leadership network are critical of the speech by President Obama last night in which he laid out plans to begin withdrawing substantial American military forces from Afghanistan.
"It is unfortunate that we have a commander in chief who is willing to let political expediency be his guidance for military strategy. President Obama's commitment to a September 2012 withdrawal of the surge forces, coincidentally, will enable him to say he 'ended' the war," said Project 21 spokesman Coby W. Dillard, a U.S. Navy veteran who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and at Guantanamo Bay. "Unquestionably, our service members and civil servants have made many gains in their work to bring freedom to a people who, for too long, have known anything but. All of these gains have come at an enormous loss, both human and fiscal. I believe the best way to honor the human sacrifices, and prevent the need to make additional fiscal ones in the future, is to definitively achieve victory in Afghanistan — to leave behind a country able to manage its own affairs and secure its own people, free of the influence of terrorists and religious extremists."
"I could not help but see President Obama's speech as a recipe for the defeatist withdrawal of our military from Afghanistan and a return of the Taliban," said Project 21 spokesman Kevin Martin, a U.S. Navy veteran. "It's an attempt by an unpopular president to reconnect with his base, and it is reportedly being done over the objections of his appointed military advisors and commanders. The Taliban will likely melt into remote regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan to await the withdrawal of NATO forces — striking again once the withdrawal is complete. It could lead to historical rewind to 1996, when the Taliban first seized Afghanistan and eventually allowed it to become the base of operations from which Osama Bin Laden would launch the attacks on the our embassies in Africa, the U.S.S. Cole and, finally, 9-11."
"President Obama seems to have a Bin Laden-centric approach to Afghanistan, but the death of Bin Laden — or anyone else — should not end our effort," said Project 21 spokesman R. Dozier Gray, a veteran of the U.S. Army. "Obama is simply wrong to think that the Afghan National Security Forces are close to being ready to take over. The surge, which was lighter than what generals requested, focused mostly on the south and southwest of Afghanistan. The east and west still need significant work. Consider our withdrawal from the eastern Pech Valley. After our troops pulled back, the Taliban filled the vacuum and began terrorizing the local populace. The last guy standing gets to claim victory. While I am hoping I am wrong, the President's speech is conditioning Afghanistan for a Taliban victory."
"President Obama is clueless about the dynamics of being a commander in chief in crisis situation. That is why he will go the way of Jimmy Carter. Not once did Obama mention his advisors — Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen, his generals, diplomats or military attaches. He only mentioned the word 'military' twice in the whole speech about military action. That's quite a feat," said Project 21 spokesman Charles Butler, a U.S. Navy veteran. "Obama said he will bring home 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year and a total of 33,000 by the summer of 2012, closing out the surge he announced at West Point. Sometime in 2014, the Afghan people will be in charge of their own security. Why not sit down with the Taliban and Al Qaeda and discuss what routes we will take during our departure phases?"
In a speech to the nation on June 22, President Obama outlined plans to begin the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan, beginning with approximately 10,000 troops this year and approximately 23,000 troops next year who are deployed as part of a "surge" strategy that began in 2009. Outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and top generals have reportedly asked for a slower drawdown to protect American civilian workers and maintain military pressure for a political settlement with the Taliban, but Gates has cited the President's domestic political considerations as a motivating factor in the drawdown.
Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives since 1992, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org).