Two weeks ago, Obama’s hit men Axelrod and Emanuel went after the Bush administration on Afghanistan claiming the Bush team’s efforts were adrift, they did not ask any key questions about the war in Afghanistan, and that Obama officials had to form a strategy from scratch.
Emanuel told CNN that the president is “asking the questions that have never been asked on the civilian side, the political side, the military side and the strategic side.”
“It’s clear that basically we had a war for eight years that was going on, that’s adrift, that we’re beginning at scratch, just at the starting point…and that there’s not a security force, an army, and the types of services that are important for the Afghans to become a true partner.”
Last week Cheney fought back:
Recently, President Obama’s advisors have decided that it’s easier to blame the Bush Administration than support our troops. This weekend they leveled a charge that cannot go unanswered. The President’s chief of staff claimed that the Bush Administration hadn’t asked any tough questions about Afghanistan, and he complained that the Obama Administration had to start from scratch to put together a strategy.In the fall of 2008, fully aware of the need to meet new challenges being posed by the Taliban, we dug into every aspect of Afghanistan policy, assembling a team that traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, reviewing options and recommendations, and briefing President-elect Obama’s team. They asked us not to announce our findings publicly, and we agreed, giving them the benefit of our work and the benefit of the doubt. The new strategy they embraced in March, with a focus on counterinsurgency and an increase in the numbers of troops, bears a striking resemblance to the strategy we passed to them. They made a decision – a good one, I think – and sent a commander into the field to implement it.
Real Clear Politics is reporting today that the Bush administration did indeed present a totally revamped Afghanistan Plan to the Obama Team:
Gibbs Tries to Defuse Rahm’s Bomb. He Fails.
Posted by Tom Bevan
In the press gaggle aboard Air Force One this afternoon, White House Press Secretary Gibbs admitted the Obama administration received and was briefed on the Bush team’s review of Afghanistan.
Gibbs said he can’t talk about it because the review is top secret -except to say that “some of the information was helpful” to President Obama. Gibbs concluded by saying the existence of the review wasn’t the real issue anyway.
Here’s the exchange:
Q The Afghan review that the Bush administration — or Cheney says was handed off to your administration, you said last week you would go and look at that. What did you find when you did that, when you went and looked for the report? Did they hand it off, and what did it say?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I — well, it’s top secret, so I appreciate the opportunity to get into what it says. Many members of our administration briefed people on the review’s existence. I don’t think what was — I don’t think what’s —
Q Was your administration briefed?
MR. GIBBS: With people that — it’s been public that we got these reviews. I mean, we can show articles where these things are discussed.
While some of the information was helpful, the President obviously found it instructive to do a review of his own, and that’s what Bruce Riedel did in the spring, which led to the President signing off on additional forces that went to Afghanistan.
I don’t think it’s the existence of the reviews that seems to be an issue here, Jon. I think it’s a focus on one area of the world at the expense of another.
For the record, this is what Emanuel told John King on October 18:
And when you go through all the analysis, it’s clear that basically we had a war for eight years that was going on, that’s adrift. That we’re beginning at scratch, and just from the starting point, after eight years.
You have literally got into a situation, is there another way you can do this? And the president is asking the questions that have never been asked on the civilian side, the political side, the military side, and the strategic side. What is the impact on the region? What can the Afghan government do or not do? Where are we on the police training? Who would be better doing the police training? Could that be something the Europeans do? Should we take the military side? Those are the questions that have not been asked. And before you commit troops, which is — not irreversible, but puts you down a certain path — before you make that decision, there’s a set of questions that have to have answers that have never been asked. And it’s clear after eight years of war, that’s basically starting from the beginning, and those questions never got asked.
All emphasis added. Contra Gibbs, it’s pretty clear Emanuel was saying that Bush’s team hadn’t done squat on Afghanistan: they hadn’t asked any tough questions or conducted any analysis of tactics and strategy. They basically threw the problem in Obama’s lap, forcing him to “start from scratch.” It’s also pretty clear, as we now know, that just wasn’t true.