Afghanistan: From the Headlines to the Frontlines

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hot on the heels of a recently-released report in which Afghanistan commander General McChrystal said the U.S. mission in Afghanistan "will likely result in failure" without calling up additional troops, President Obama hit the talk show circuit expressing concern about sending more troops. How are these mixed messages playing out for those about to be deployed?

Kristen L. Rouse is a first lieutenant in the Army National Guard and recently found out she would be deployed for a second tour in Afghanistan. Mary Galeti's husband Russell is also soon to be deployed to Afghanistan. They join us with their thoughts on the continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan. We're also joined by Larry Korb, former Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan and now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a senior advisor for the Center for Defense Information.

"We have a moral obligation to fulfill the promises that we've made to the Afghan people. I think that Afghanistan is a profoundly impoverished nation that has suffered from thirty years of warfare."
—Kristen L. Rouse, first lieutenant in the Army National Guard and soon to deploy for a second tour in Afghanistan, on the U.S. mission there


Mary Galeti, Larry Korb and Kristen L. Rouse


Melissa Locker

Comments [13]


"thirty years of warfare" How about 3,000 years?!? There will always be a power vacuum in Afghanistan. There has been a power vacuum in Afghanistan since Genghis Khan (1206–1227) and Alexander the Great (336–323 BCE), before him!

Take Care of people, don't try to kill them! Let's see if we can go 1 day with out killing people. The Military Solution believers need a 12 Step program. One day at a time, no killing today.

Oct. 16 2009 11:11 AM

Thanks for your note, Ginger! The line to which you're referring was actually a transcription of something Lt. Rouse had said on the radio that morning. People speak non-grammatically all the time, of course, and the people with whom they're speaking usually don't even notice. On the website, we wrestle with how best to present their exact words in text while not making the sentences appear ... well, as non-grammatical as they are.

Oct. 13 2009 12:44 PM
Ginger A.D.

A lead sentence on the WNYC homepage reads:
"The conflict in Iraq, while that was very important, definitely eclipsed the mission in Afghanistan."
-- Kristen L. Rouse, first lieutenant in the Army National Guard, on The Takeaway

In this context, the "while" implies that what follows is going to somewhat contradict or "turn" what preceded it. So I think your reporter, or Kristen, or whomever, meant to say:
"The conflict in Iraq, while that was very important, definitely _was_ eclipsed _by_ the mission in Afghanistan."

It is news. And even if news is going to be increasingly reported on the Web, we still need to ensure that the language we use to communicate it is making sense.

Oct. 13 2009 12:20 PM
Bill Mullen

Afghanistan, Autumn
(part 4)
Technically, we can defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. We already have done so in 2002-03. The problem facing us is that any victory delivered by an escalation, (or a surge as it now euphemistically called,) must be followed up either by a decade or more of helping a popular government consolidate; or supporting an unpopular government The alternative is leaving a power vacuum, and allowing a terrorist state to come into existence.

Therefore, our only option is to find a way to assist the Afghan people to have a democratically elected government; and not to be forced to support the present government, widely believed to have come into office through a fraudulent election. The firing of Peter Galbraith is a major attack on that option; and UN support of the Karzai government can only lead to eventual victory for the Taliban.

The UN has become part of the problem in Afghanistan; and their actions will lead to eventual Taliban victory.

Oct. 01 2009 04:24 PM
Bill Mullen

Afghanistan, Autumn
(part 3)
The Critique:
We cannot support an unpopular government and expect to win. The Taliban, and their allies Al Qaeda, will exploit the resentment of the people for their government and turn the people against their liberators by painting us as foreign invaders.

The Conclusions:
The US cannot ‘pull out’ and just leave a political vacuum, which the terrorist factions will fill, and give themselves a national power base to perpetrate their terrorist actions.

The US cannot continue to support an unpopular government, and buck he will of the Afghan people; which will lead to our defeat.

Oct. 01 2009 04:22 PM
Bill Mullen

Afghanistan, Autumn
(part 2)
The Precedent: Vietnam
The US faced a very similar situation in Vietnam, that being that we upheld and supported an unpopular and corrupt government who cared more about themselves that their people. The US won militarilly, but could not get the people to support their own government of South Vietnam.

Lacking popular support, that government could not stand against any threat.

The United Nations:
The UN has overseen and accepted the results of the August 2009 election of President Karzai.

This election was an obvious fraud; and is perceived as so by the Afghan people. Karzai’s government does not have popular support.

Peter Galbraith, the deputy UN special envoy responsible for electoral matters, has advocated a complete recount of the disputed Afghan election.

Galbraith has been fired by the UN, for advocating for a total recount of the fraudulent election, on the grounds that the Karzai faction could not work with him.

Oct. 01 2009 04:18 PM

The Mission: We have to build schools and clinics there so we don't have to build them here.

Sep. 25 2009 12:53 PM

We didn't "make a promise" to the people of Afghanistan. We invaded them, bombed them, destroyed their homes and roads and sanitation and water systems, and have now occupied their country militarily for over 8 years because 15 Saudis hijacked four planes in our country. Go figure.

What is the "mission" in Afghanistan? Some say it is to control portions of the land to allow the oil corporations to build and run a pipeline to steal oil from their neighbors.

But certainly there is no humanitarian aspect to the U.S. continuing to wage war against the people of this country. The fact that we don't like their religious tribal government does not justify us in continuing the war. Our stated "goal" is to create a Afghanistan military of several million to continue waging war. Possibly as a client state of the U.S. But we have no humanitarian thoughts or goals in this war.

Like all wars, it's about killing as many people as needed to subjugate the civilian population.

Sep. 25 2009 12:43 PM
Dana Franchitto

Dear Lieuteneat Rouse,
Thank you for your responses. I'm sure, WNYC won't mind your "shilling", thta;s what they seem to do best anyway. AAt least ,you are honest about who you are unlike "public" radio. My beef is that "the Takeaway" is not giving us the whole story on Ahghanistan. Yes, it's important ,we hear advocates for the war and US policy but "The Takeaway' ddddoes not allow voices whocriticize the occupation of Afghanistan at its roots. No voices are allowed who deem this occupation as furthering of US imperial ambitions inservice to corporate America. No, "THe Takeaway" doesn't have to agree with this view. But as media in a democracy, they have to allow airtime for it.

Sep. 23 2009 12:02 PM
Kristen L. Rouse

As it happens, I head a fledgling group called Veterans for Afghanistan that aims to do some of the things I've talked about here. If WNYC doesn't mind, there's my brief shilling for Veterans for Afghanistan.

Thanks for listening and reading, everyone. I hope this adds some dimension to the public discussion.

Sep. 22 2009 05:15 PM
Kristen L. Rouse

The moral obligation I'm talking about is to do good and genuinely assist a war-torn nation to recover from its recent past. And to do that by helping individual people, through education, health care, business opportunities, and gestures of goodwill. In addition to providing security to enable all of that to take place and to "stick." My wish is for the American public to take measure of the full spectrum of what U.S. troops have been doing in Afghanistan--not just the negatives reported most heavily in the news media--as they debate these important issues.

Regardless of whether we agree or disagree on politics or policy, I also hope that Americans feel passionately interested in helping Afghan civilians through some truly excellent NGOs out there who are doing great work without any political or military affiliation.

Sep. 22 2009 05:14 PM
Kristen L. Rouse

Thanks for listening and for your comments. I agree that informed debate is critical during wartime, and I wish we all had more time to discuss important issues--particularly face to face, where we can talk as regular people.

It's true I'm a lieutenant, but the views I expressed are totally my own. I appeared because WNYC was kind enough to ask me on the show and I spoke only from personal conviction; I received no compensation or endorsement from anyone for this appearance.

Sep. 22 2009 05:12 PM

Just what lieutenant Rouse means by "moral obligation" to the Afghan people is not really made clear in this converstaion. You mean bombing their houses during weddings, teaming up with warlords who are no less repressive than the Taliban? IS that what she means? After thirty years of warfare, she wants to dump more on to them?
And isn't Mary Galeti aware that she lives in a democracy where informed citizens are supposed to question government policy especially during wartime? With her husband being deployed is she really willing to accpet government rationales becuase "they have more information than I do"?
Yes, Larry Korb made a cameo here, but the see-saw was tipped ttoward these two shills for the Pentagon. Is there any room for critical thinking on the "Takeaway"?

Sep. 22 2009 03:25 PM

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