Has John Kerry gone senile, is he on medication, can anyone make sense of his interview with Margaret Warner on The Newshour with Jim Lehrer? Is John Kerry just plain dumb, she asks him four times what his advice would be to President Obama on whether or not he should increase the troop level in Afghanistan, not only does John Kerry not answer the question but he sounds like a blithering idiot. Someone explain to me why we don’t have term limits:
MARGARET WARNER: You said in your speech today that General McChrystal’s plan goes too far too fast.
Are you talking about the troop levels or his basic overall strategy of counterinsurgency?
SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-Mass.: The breadth of the reach of the counterinsurgency that he wants to start with and the number of troops to do it immediately. That doesn’t mean you might not get there, ultimately, Margaret.
But I think you have got to show people like me and others that we have the civilian capacity to come in under underneath those troops, and the governance that’s going to allow us to hold on, and the Afghan army members who will be in there with you, so it’s not an American face; it’s an Afghan movement immediately.
I think those three ingredients are critical. And we just don’t have that sufficiently there to say, oh, boy, let’s just go deploy this number of troops now.
MARGARET WARNER: So, are you suggesting to the president that he simply defer a decision on additional troops? Are you…
SEN. JOHN KERRY: No, I think the president could conceivably make the decision with — and in many ways. He could put in some troops. He could put in a lot of troops. He could do, you know, any number of options.
But I’m trying to suggest that the standard that you use before you put them out into combat and clear an area and start to hold an area and actually implement the counterinsurgency component itself, I think you need those ingredients, or you are going to fail.
MARGARET WARNER: But the ingredients you lay out, some kind of effective local and national governance, Afghan security forces, a much better coordinated U.S. civilian effort, I mean, those are big projects, aren’t they?
SEN. JOHN KERRY: Well, then, if you don’t willing to — they don’t have to be that enormous, no. I don’t — I don’t agree with that.
For instance, the local governance, you have got to identify a district governor or a province governor who knows who the players are who have authority in a tribe or authority in a particular community, and that they are willing to be with you, so that if, indeed, you send your troops in there to clear the bad guys out, those guys will have local authority to begin to help to distribute the services and do the things you need to do, rather than an American face, an American soldier trying to translate to people through a translator, this is why we are here and this is what we are doing.
You want an Afghan face on that. They have got to invest in this. On the — on the — on the civilian piece of what you need to come in with underneath there, to some degree, the military can take care of part of that. They can use certain funding that we have available, pay people simply to give up their guns and come over.
But you have got to pretty quickly have something for them to do. You have got to pretty quickly begin to engage them in, you know, opening up some kind of commerce and the other kinds of things you need to have sustainability.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me see if I understand, though, what you are suggesting that President Obama should do right now. In other words, he’s got a pending troop request for, if reports are to be believed, anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000, or way more, thousands of troops.
In the next three to four weeks — and you have got an Afghan election coming up — how you are suggesting the president calibrate his response to that request?
SEN. JOHN KERRY: Well, by — I very respectfully would suggest to him that they make the kinds of judgments that I laid out in the speech I gave today about how much they feel they can commit at this moment in the relative weight of what we need to do in Pakistan versus what we need to do in Afghanistan, versus what we need to do, potentially, with Iran, with North Korea, with, you know, other — you know, other challenges in the world, to balance all of that, and then specifically define what that — what — what is it that would have the most impact on advancing our efforts in Afghanistan that we can accomplish in the — in the least costly, most effective way to start with.
See what works. Prove that you can make that difference. And, as you prove it, you can establish confidence, not just in Afghanistan, but here at home, about further commitments. If you rush in with too many people too quickly, without having the support structure there that they need to make it sustainable, we’re asking for the undermining of our own effort.
And that’s what I want to avoid.
MARGARET WARNER: So, are you saying that, if the benchmarks were met, then you wouldn’t have any problem with 40,000 additional troops?
SEN. JOHN KERRY: It depends. Again, as I said, I think the strategy is reaching a little too far too fast. I want to see these done, the benchmarks met, and the process put in place in a way that we can measure, so we have confidence about where we are going in the future.
I would rather not start with the 40. I clearly believe we can do with less to — to begin with, and that we can be effective, because we have so many troops we have just put in there. We have tripled the numbers of troops already. And we need to demand more from some of our allies.
I do not want this to become such a significantly American effort. And we have a right to expect more from those NATO countries that just signed up to this.
MARGARET WARNER: And how do you think the upcoming Afghan election should play into that, in terms of for the president, both the way it’s conducted and the outcome?
SEN. JOHN KERRY: Well, obviously, we have got to have a government with legitimacy. I mean, that’s very critical. And that’s one of the things that I thought was so important in the work we did, you know, a week or so ago, which was to try to make sure we had the opportunity to have that government, because, if you didn’t, you’re — you’re really in trouble to begin with.
I think we will come out of there with a government of legitimacy. And then the issue is, how do we get the reforms in place rapidly enough to begin to give people an assurance that business is going to be different in Afghanistan?