I am sure that John Hannah, former deputy national security advisor to VP Dick Cheney, didn't mean to confess how badly the Bush administration screwed up Afghanistan before it turned over the mess to President Obama, but that's exactly what his post in the Foreign Policy Magazine's "Shadow Government" blog did. Spencer Ackerman provides a very appropriate take-down of the Hannah lecture:
Wherein the former foreign-policy aide to Dick Cheney attempts to exonerate the Bush administration’s complete and total fuck-up-itude on Afghanistan. Words fail. It’s hard to excerpt. But I’ll try.
“Eight years of drift,” according to Obama administration officials seeking to explain their lengthy deliberations over strategy and troop numbers. But, as Stephens suggests, the reality is a good deal more complex. The fact is that, after a period of genuine progress following the Taliban’s removal in late 2001, the situation in Afghanistan only began to deteriorate markedly between 2005 and 2006. Suicide attacks quintupled that year. Remotely detonated bombs more than doubled. Insurgent attacks nearly tripled. And the trends have steadily worsened every year since.
Yeah, except for that, it was all going so well!
The question is why?
An ideological inability to embrace the necessity of state-building? A defense secretary who refused to allow U.S. forces to perform peacekeeping tasks? Consistent and thorough underresourcing? A president who never treated Pakistan as a theater of the Afghanistan war? Or who reduced policy in both countries to two chiefs of state? A totally unnecessary additional war that you geniuses decided to launch?
I certainly don’t have an exhaustive answer…
May I offer one?
To summarize Hannah's three points, the US advisor to Karzai left in 2005 to go to Iraq on Bush's orders; NATO took over operations, largely because the Bush administration didn't want to put more US troops in Afghanistan and it wanted European troops there; and the Bush administration didn't hold Pakistan to any accountability to hold down its side of the border. It's interesting how Hannah forgets to mention that these were all key Bush decisions.
The most ironic part of his post is the ending, where Hannah says (paraphrasing his words), "yeah, we screwed it up pretty good and now it's going to cost a lot more than we anticipated, but hey, at least we'll stop those Taliban tribes from taking over Pakistan and stealing its nukes." What an incredibly lame and useless man this is.