SASC Hearing: Dunford Advocates for Forever War in Afghanistan

I was only able to monitor portions of yesterday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in which Joseph Dunford provided an update on the situation in Afghanistan. Most of the hearing was the usual frustrating bunk, such as Roger Wicker whinging that we just don’t hear enough in the media about US successes in Afghanistan. John McCain actually was a bit more responsible than usual, showing a lot of doubt about the current set of plans and complaining that the small reserve force anticipated after 2014 is just not worth the risk to the troops if a BSA is eventually signed. Dunford’s opening statement as submitted can be found here (pdf) and the video of the entire hearing is here. What stood out at the hearing for me, though, was the entire exchange between Joe Manchin and Dunford. Here is the clip of that exchange:

In the middle of the exchange, Manchin brings up the issue of the “excess” Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, or MRAP’s. This has been an issue I’ve followed closely, especially when I found that the US ordered nearly a billion dollars’ worth next generation vehicles while declaring a large number of usable vehicles unneeded.  Several months after writing that post, I happened to overhear a conversation on an airplane in which a person claimed to have just come from Kabul, where they witnessed brand new MRAP’s coming off planes being delivered, driving across the tarmac and then being cut up for scrap. I made a few inquiries on whether this was indeed occurring (the explanation from the person on the airplane was that the purchase contracts could not be rescinded and that delivery to Kabul was a part of the contract), so the bit where Manchin and Dunford discuss them perked up my ears. Note that Dunford claims he’s saving money by scrapping them, since it costs only $10,000 to cut one up but $50,000 to ship it home. Manchin rightfully then points out that building the replacement costs a million dollars if a new MRAP is needed. Dunford then offers that sufficient MRAP’s have been moved back to the US to cover any projected needs for the next conflict that breaks out. Significantly, he states that he has discontinued the practice of cutting them up for scrap. This is the first I’ve heard about discontinuing the practice and I have to wonder if DoD was beginning to feel pressure due to word getting out about scrapping such expensive equipment. The “donation” plan is doomed from the start, since any recipients have to arrange and pay for shipment. This might not be entirely bad, though, as it may prevent a rash of these ridiculous beasts showing up in the fleets of local law enforcement agencies.

The final bit of the exchange, though, is the most telling. In their coverage of the hearing, both the New York Times and Washington Post picked up “quotables” from Manchin in the lead-up to the final exchange, but stopped short of what I see as Dunford first denying and then going all in on the concept of a forever war in Afghanistan.

My transcript of the final exchange, after Dunford had claimed there would be a time when the US would leave:

Manchin: And I’m saying if thirteen years didn’t do the job, how many more years do you think it’ll take? That’s the question I cannot answer. You know, we’re just basically saying if you can’t do the job in ten, twelve, thriteen years, you’re just not going to get the job done.

Dunford: Well, Senator, I would assume because we have vital national interests in the region, that the United States would be engaged in the region for a long period of time to come. The nature of our engagement and the nature of our presence would of course change over time.

Manchin: Again, thank you so much for your service and I would just respectfully disagree.

So although Dunford first told Manchin that there would be a time when the US could leave Afghanistan (in contrast to Manchin’s example of South Korea), Dunford then failed to put any endpoint on what would be “a long period of time to come” when the US would have such a vital interest in Afghanistan that we need to keep troops there. I’m with Manchin on disagreeing, but I can’t get to the respectful part.

9 replies
  1. Jeff Kaye says:

    We are already in “forever war”, and have been since Dec. 7, 1941.

    Enjoy your work and reporting. This fact doesn’t take away from importance of following what the generals are saying, or of documenting the tremendous financial and human waste, the tragedy of it all.

  2. Frank33 says:

    So General Dummyford admits he is a failure. How long is long period of time? Why is it taking so long? I blame the women. The groupies for these Generals are a vital national interest, at least for the Generals.

    Well, Senator, I would assume because we have vital national interests in the region, that the United States would be engaged in the region for a long period of time to come.

    General Petraeus and his mistress assistant Col. Paula Broadwell also failed to win the war. Before that General McChrystal who was also assisted by Col. Broadwell failed to win the war.

    Oh yes General Allen, failed to win the war. He was too busy going to Jill Kelley’s parties. And Jill Kelley suffered also.

    “People don’t understand what I went through,” Kelley said in a recent interview with the New York Times. “I am still suffering the consequences from the bad acts and false and untrue headlines. They created a sideshow at my expense.”

    But the women of Afghanistan have a sideshow to endure. They may have suffered more than Jill I think.

    Before these failed Generals the other Generals failed to win the war. There is a pattern here. These Generals are busy screwing their groupies. Why would you expect them to end their good times, screwing their groupies. It is not just an endless war. It is an endless party for the Generals. Money for nothing and chicks for free.

  3. Les says:

    The Pentagon is giving away 13,000 MRAPs to local law enforcement and allies. I recall there’s a program within the DHS that gives grants to local law enforcement to purchase the vehicles.

  4. liberalrob says:

    What “vital national interests” do we have in the region of Afghanistan? I can’t think of any.

    • Jim White says:

      That does stand out, doesn’t it? At least Manchin understands that when he says he can’t explain to West Virginians why we are there.

  5. Michael Murry says:

    I lived through all this shuck-and-jive bullshit from the generals back in Vietnam. As we said to them then, so should we say to them now:

    “If you knew what to do, you’d have done it already. If you could have, you would have; but you didn’t, so you can’t. Time’s up.”

  6. Stephen Kriz says:

    Of course this egregious waste of taxpayer dollars by the Pentagon is not covered anywhere in the mainstream media. Let one poor person get double their $127 per month food stamp allotment and Rush Dimbulb and the right-wing harpies are screaming bloody murder. Sickening. Thank you for exposing this squander of our commonwealth. It’s too bad the media doesn’t do their job and cover it as well!

  7. Don Bacon says:

    Here is the money quote:

    Dunford: Well, Senator, I would assume because we have vital national interests in the region, that the United States would be engaged in the region for a long period of time to come.

    The US military presence in Afghanistan was planned before 9/11 and its principal purpose is to anchor a US presence in Central Asia, with the US New Silk Policy.
    The leader of the free world must have a presence everywhere if possible, and especially in resource-rich, Russia- and China-bordering Central Asia. Afghanistan is the keystone country to that US presence. Dunford is the military tool of that US policy.

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