Afghanistan Finally Gets Needed Resources, Biden Says

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2010 — Any talk of coali­tion forces being unable to suc­ceed in Afghanistan is pre­ma­ture, giv­en that they are just begin­ning to get all the troops and equip­ment that Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s strat­e­gy there calls for, Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden said today.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, com­man­der of U.S. and inter­na­tion­al forces in Afghanistan, “now and only now has all the resources that the strat­e­gy calls for,” Biden said dur­ing a speech at the Vet­er­ans of For­eign Wars nation­al con­ven­tion in Indi­anapo­lis.

The arrival this month of the last of 30,000 addi­tion­al troops, as well as oth­er addi­tion­al resources com­bined with Petraeus’ lead­er­ship, puts the coalition’s nine-year war in Afghanistan in its best posi­tion yet to stamp out rad­i­cal extrem­ism that led to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against the Unit­ed States, the vice pres­i­dent said.

Afghanistan “is the most intractable prob­lem we face, and we need­ed the best gen­er­al we have, and now we have him,” Biden said. “So folks, don’t buy into [the idea] that we’ve failed in Afghanistan, because we now are only begin­ning with the right gen­er­al and the right num­ber of forces to accom­plish our objec­tives.”

Biden not­ed that the draw­down of U.S. forces in Iraq to 50,000 troops at the end of this month will allow for a greater focus on Afghanistan. “After too many years of neglect,” he said, “we now are mak­ing over­all progress to dis­rupt and defeat the al-Qai­da safe haven and reverse the Tal­iban momen­tum.”

That progress will allow for gov­er­nance that prompts the will of the Afghan peo­ple to reject extrem­ism, Biden said.

“We can­not want peace and secu­ri­ty in Afghanistan more than they want it,” he said.

The vice pres­i­dent also said it was impor­tant for the admin­is­tra­tion to name July 2011 as the start of the Unit­ed States’ tran­si­tion out of Afghanistan. How­ev­er, “we are not leav­ing in July 2001; it’s the start of the tran­si­tion” that will be decid­ed by con­di­tions on the ground on a province-by-province basis, he said.

“The date is impor­tant to tell the Afghans that they must step up; they must exer­cise sov­er­eign­ty if they are ever going to pre­vail,” he added.

On Iraq, Biden said he is “absolute­ly con­fi­dent that Iraq will form a nation­al gov­ern­ment that is able to sus­tain that coun­try.”

Despite the Iran­ian gov­ern­ment spend­ing $100 mil­lion to influ­ence Iraq’s nation­al elec­tions, Biden said, Iran’s influ­ence in Iraq “is min­i­mal,” as evi­denced by the fact that none of the can­di­dates it backed won in two elec­tions held since March.

Because of the work of U.S. mil­i­tary mem­bers under the direc­tion of Army Gen. Ray­mond T. Odier­no, the vice pres­i­dent said, Iraq today is a near­ly unrec­og­niz­able from the height of vio­lence there in 2007. With the improved secu­ri­ty, U.S. forces were able to train 650,000 Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces, which now can pro­tect the coun­try, he said.

The secu­ri­ty also has led to free elec­tions and gov­ern­ment lead­ers who resolve dis­putes through nego­ti­a­tions rather than vio­lence, Biden said. The issue of who will lead the nation­al gov­ern­ment since no sin­gle can­di­date or par­ty earned a clear vic­to­ry is being worked out under par­lia­men­tary pro­ce­dures, and will reflect the will of vot­ers, he added.

“In estab­lish­ing a democ­ra­cy, the most impor­tant elec­tion is not the first elec­tion,” said Biden, who has made 13 trips to Iraq to help with the tran­si­tion process. “It’s the sec­ond elec­tion.

“Pol­i­tics is not always pret­ty,” he con­tin­ued, “but the hard work of form­ing a new gov­ern­ment is well under way, and I per­son­al­ly have made it clear to the lead­ing politi­cians that it’s time for them to match the courage of their cit­i­zens by com­plet­ing the process.”

The draw­down to 50,000 U.S. troops, which is expect­ed to be com­plet­ed next week, “does not mean we are dis­en­gag­ing from Iraq,” Biden said. Rather, the Unit­ed States will have a long-term rela­tion­ship with Iraq, as reflect­ed by U.S. con­sulates open­ing in Iraqi cities, he said.

Nine years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq has pro­duced more than 2 mil­lion new war vet­er­ans, near­ly 40,000 of whom are wound­ed, Biden said. Of those, some 18,000 will require crit­i­cal care, at an esti­mat­ed cost of $7 bil­lion, for the rest of their lives, he not­ed. Biden pledged that the coun­try would meet their needs, no mat­ter the cost.

“Our nation has only one tru­ly sacred oblig­a­tion,” he said, “and that is to pre­pare and equip those who we send into harm’s way and to care for them and their fam­i­lies when they come home.”

Already, Biden said, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion “is involved in the most com­pre­hen­sive pro­gram ever” to pro­vide for vet­er­ans, giv­ing the Vet­er­ans Affairs Depart­ment a $16 bil­lion bud­get increase this year and seek­ing $11 bil­lion next year.

“Whether or not we keep our promise to our vet­er­ans will say more about who we are as a nation than any­thing else we do,” he said. “Our ser­vice to our vet­er­ans is non-nego­tiable.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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