William & Mary’s Lawrence Wilkerson talked with NPR’s “On Point” live Monday, September 21 about the push for more troops in Afghanistan. Wilkerson, the Harriman Professor for Government and Public Policy, served as chief-of-staff from 2002 – 2005 under then Secretary of State Colin Powell. He teaches a seminar on national security decision making.
“I see this as a recipe for another situation where 18 months from now we are examining our navels,” he told NPR’s Tom Ashbrook about the rumored increase in troops and the current U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Wilkerson has been an on-the-record critic of current U.S. policy in Afghanistan.
He said that it was inconceivable to him how current objectives in Afghanistan could be met without at an additional 10 – 15 year commitment from the U.S.
The “On Point” discussion was held the same morning a report was leaked in U.S. media outlets from General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, recommending increases in U.S. troop levels there or risk mission failure in that country.
Wilkerson noted reports of this kind are generally leaked to gage the reaction to its contents. “[It’s] like running the flag up the flag pole to see if anyone salutes.”
More troops or not, Wilkerson said a successful outcome in Afghanistan is unlikely.
Wilkerson likened the situation in Afghanistan to the Vietnam War.
“We are now, as we were in Vietnam, supporting an illegitimate government,” he said.
In addition, Wilkerson noted that the idea that the government of current Afghani President Hamid Karzai is going to be able to control Afghanistan is “nonsensical.” He added that political control from Kabul, the country’s capital, isn’t in Afghanistan’s history and doesn’t appear to be in its future.
“It’s getting worse politically, not better,” he said.
A military solution is unlikely to work in Afghanistan, Wilkerson concluded.
The discussion included Daniel Ellsberg, a former top-level defense analyst at the Defense Department and State Department, who when he was working as an analyst at the RAND Corporation in 1971 leaked the so-called “Pentagon Papers” to The New York Times; and George Packer, staff writer for The New Yorker.