On the same day it was reported that a United States aircraft carrier is being positioned in the Persian Gulf to show “resolve” to Iran, Sen. Evan Bayh wrote a letter along with Sen. Hillary Clinton urging Defense Secretary Robert Gates to deploy more troops to Afghanistan.
Bayh (D–Ind.), who recently returned from a four-day trip to Iraq and Afghanistan with Sen. Clinton (D–N.Y.), said that while the situation in Afghanistan is looking “much more hopeful,” the war in Iraq continues to deteriorate.
In a teleconference from Washington on Wednesday, Bayh summarized his trip, during which he, Clinton and Rep. John McHugh (R–N.Y.) met with U.S. military commanders and members of Iraqi leadership, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Military commanders in Afghanistan are requesting additional resources, “including another battalion of troops to meet what they anticipate will be another Taliban offensive” in the spring or summer, Bayh said.
The “lessons of Iraq” should help inform the next steps taken in Afghanistan, he said. One difference there, he added, is that “Afghans are politically fairly united. They don’t want to go back to the days of the Taliban, they support what we’re doing.” Iraqis, on the other hand, still are torn and unsure whether to accept help from Iran.
Another difference is the number of troops, Bayh said. “More forces early on could have made a difference in Iraq. I think we’re beyond that point now. In Afghanistan we’re still at a point where if we add the resources including a few extra troops right now, we can tip the struggle in a positive direction … Remember we were attacked by Afghanistan, so we have a strong interest in making sure it doesn’t sink back into a kind of collapsed state that will be a safe haven for terrorists. For a tiny fraction of the resources we’ve been asked to devote to Iraq, we could make a major difference in Afghanistan.”
When asked if he and Sen. Clinton had discussed a joint run for the White House in 2008, Bayh said they had not talked about it. “We were there to focus upon one of the biggest challenges facing our country today: what to do about the global struggle against terrorism, what to do about Iraq and Afghanistan.
“That’s what we were focused on.”
Be an interesting pairing. Hillary may want to cover her left flank, though.