National Press Club

Bond Calls on Obama to Implement Counterinsurgency Plan in Afghanistan

April 2, 2009 | By Mark Schoeff Jr.

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President Obama’s approach to Afghanistan should mirror the counterinsurgency effort that the Bush administration used over the past couple years in Iraq, according to a leading Republican senator on foreign policy matters.

“The strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan that President Obama unveiled last week is an encouraging start to addressing the many complex problems that plague the region,” said Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, at an April 1 Newsmaker.

“The reason my optimism is guarded is because the president has 'split the baby’ between counter-terrorism--or CT--and counterinsurgency--or Coin.”

Iraq remained mired in turmoil as the United States battled terrorism in the country. The relative stability achieved in Iraq was brought about by suppressing insurgents. That lesson should guide Obama as he formulates policy toward Afghanistan, according to Bond.

“This turnaround in Iraq is one of the reasons why I believe that the only way to address the long-term threat of terrorism in the region is by taking a smart-power, counter-insurgency approach,” said Bond, R-Missouri.

Bond defines smart power as military force to thwart security threats combined with economic, educational and governance development. It also involves engagement by Americans on the ground through groups like Peace Corps and a sustained public diplomacy effort to communicate with local
communities about advances.

Government agencies need to do a better job of working together in Afghanistan, Bond said. When he visited the region in December, he noted that the State Department, the Department of Defense and the Drug Enforcement Agency were making progress in their individual duties. But
they were operating in a vacuum.

“They didn’t know how their efforts fit with the other efforts going on there,” Bond said. “There’s no coordination among all of those elements.”