A Conversation with Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT): An Update on Iraq and Afghanistan

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The second day of FPI’s 2010 Forum began with a conversation between Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, and FPI Director William Kristol. Senator Lieberman first addressed the continuing disclarity regarding America’s involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. At a time of unprecedented U.S. engagement in the region, Lieberman reported that there is more doubt than ever amongst our allies regarding our staying power and commitment to the region. Senator Lieberman feels that “it's in our national security interest to do everything we can to end that uncertainty.”

Senator Lieberman then discussed Iraq, where he reported that the next two months will provide “a critical window of opportunity” for the Iraqi government to represent the will of the Iraqi people. He emphasized the importance of continued American engagement in Iraq, but noted the lack of focus on the situation there from the Obama administration in the aftermath of the March 10 election.  Meanwhile, Iraq’s neighbors were deeply involved in its domestic politics. In the end, Lieberman assessed, “I think we did lose an opportunity there.”

Shifting to Afghanistan, Senator Lieberman noted the American military has “begun to turn the tide” against the Taliban, and stressed the importance of communicating to the American people that “progress is happening.” He praised the president’s surge of forces last December, and said that for the first time in years, the United States has a “strategic coherence” to the effort there. Yet the Obama administration’s Afghanistan policy remains unclear. The president’s 2011 deadline sent shockwaves throughout the region, and “exacerbated the central strategic problem” the United States faces in Afghanistan and Pakistan: commitment. In turn, the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan continue to hedge their bets on American staying power, making success more difficult. Moving forward, Lieberman suggested that policymakers and administration officials should discuss the possibility of an American airbase in Afghanistan. This, he said, would improve stability in the region and would be “one of the most tangible guarantors” to American commitment to the future of Afghanistan.

Senator Lieberman concluded his remarks by noting that he believes our investments in Iraq and Afghanistan are moving forward, and hopes that decision makers in Washington are able to work together on a bipartisan basis to improve American security by committing to the future of both conflicts. In the upcoming Congress, he fears an unusual alliance could form in the House of Representatives between isolationist Republicans and antiwar Democrats, despite a commitment from President Obama on Afghanistan. But this will also be a moment when a strengthened bipartisan coalition could recommit to both war efforts.



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The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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