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Russ Feingold: Obama's Afghan Strategy "Unwise"

This article is more than 13 years old.
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), July 2009.
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), July 2009.

Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin said in our first hour today that President Obama's strategy for the war in Afghanistan is "unwise" and that the administration should not increase the U.S. military commitment there.

The President has already boosted troop levels in Afghanistan, and he is now contemplating sending an even larger force to deal with a resurgent Taliban.

“I’m trying to persuade the President, who I think is a fine man and a very good leader, that this is not a good course," Feingold told host Tom Ashbrook. "I’m trying to point out to him the problems with the course. And I assume he takes it in that spirit.”

Feingold went on to say, "It is an unwise strategy that does not reflect the President’s very words about the centrality of Pakistan versus Afghanistan."

Listen to Feingold's full interview:

In recent weeks, Feingold has become a leading Democratic voice advocating a "road home" from Afghanistan. Some foreign policy experts, however, maintain that the U.S. still has a chance at success if the right resources are marshalled.

Feingold said that President Obama needs to listen to voices other than those in the military calling for more resources:

TOM ASHBROOK: President Obama has already bumped up the level by 21,000. And now with General McChrystal’s recommendation apparently very seriously considering a very significant further bump. You’re saying your Democratic President is wrong. What do you think is wrong with his analysis?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: You know, I was very hesitant to start saying this because I think President Obama has a much better concept of what’s going on in that region. He’s taken the lead in talking about how Pakistan is so central to the issue. But the problem is that at the same time, I did not understand why he accepted the advice of military people to beef up our military presence in Afghanistan when the much greater problem is in Pakistan. In fact, I think — and it’s basically not denied, by either the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, or Richard Holbrooke, our special envoy -- they did not deny that this may push more radicals into Pakistan, which is actually a bigger deal. So, when I heard about the 21,000 I was troubled. And I’m even more troubled now at the idea of a much bigger troop build-up. I think it’s a mistake. I think the President needs to listen a little bit less to the people that are talking about the military side, [and] listen more to people who are thinking about the whole region and the diplomatic side.

Senator Feingold appeared today along with former Pentagon official Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress, who supports an increased troop commitment, and Prof. Stephen Walt of Harvard University, a prominent skeptic of the president's strategy. You can listen to the full hour here.


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