Issue Pulse: Too Few Resources, Too Many Battles

Expert consensus is that continued strain from fighting two wars is keeping the United States from accomplishing goals in Afghanistan.

Two marines scan the area in Afghanistan during a security stop on their convoy on April 24. (AP/David Guttenfelder)
Two marines scan the area in Afghanistan during a security stop on their convoy on April 24. (AP/David Guttenfelder)

America’s armed forces are under serious strain from the mission of fighting two wars at once. While the focus of spending, troop deployments, and media attention is on Iraq, operations in Afghanistan are suffering heavily. Afghanistan now faces a growing insurgency that directly threatens its stability and the national security interests of the United States, as detailed by the Center for American Progress’s Caroline Wadhams and Lawrence J. Korb.

But they’re not the only ones who have come to this conclusion. Experts agree: The war in Iraq is hurting our mission in Afghanistan, using critical resources and deflecting attention from the real central front in the war on global terrorist networks.

“…there’s no question that something has to be done to deal with the millstone that Iraq is on Afghanistan, in terms of public perceptions, in terms of funding, in terms of dealing with Afghanistan on its own merits.”
Karl Inderfurth, Former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs & Ambassador to the U.N. Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Feb. 14, 2008

“In Afghanistan, we do what we can. In Iraq, we do what we must.”
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Testimony to Congress, Jan. 25, 2008

“It is critical for the United States to provide additional…military support for Afghanistan, including resources that might become available as combat forces are moved from Iraq."
Iraq Study Group, December 2006

It is time to turn the page and refocus our energies and efforts on the “forgotten war” in Afghanistan. Our myopic focus on Iraq has distracted from, and undermined, the central front in the war on terrorism.
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Feb. 26, 2008

“The problem…is that the president has enormous authority under our constitutional system to do exactly what he’s doing. He does have the money already appropriated in the budget. But look at what decisions he’s making. He’s taking troops away from Afghanistan, where I think we need to be putting more troops, and sending them to Iraq on a mission that I think has a very limited, if any, chance for success.”
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Jan. 17, 2007

“The readiness of our forces is affected by combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq…We are at a higher risk state.”
Adm. Timothy Keating, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Feb. 27, 2008

“…the priority now for resources is going towards Iraq at this time…there are some things we could do and, as Admiral Mullen said, we may like to do, we would like to do, but we can’t take those on now until the resource balance shifts, sir.”
Lt. Gen. John Sattler, U.S. Marine Corps, Director for Strategic Plans & Policy. Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Feb. 14, 2008

It’s time to remember the forgotten front in Afghanistan. The Iraq war continues to divert attention and assets from other national security challenges, including instability and safe havens for the Al Qaeda movement in Afghanistan and Pakistan. With a phased military redeployment from Iraq, vital resources can be redirected to Afghanistan to protect American security interests. The United States cannot continue to ignore our mission in Afghanistan.

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