Kerry Faults Bush's Afghanistan Strategy

By ANDREW MIGA
The Associated Press
Thursday, September 14, 2006; 9:43 PM

WASHINGTON -- Democratic Sen. John Kerry, the party's 2004 presidential nominee, accused the Bush administration of pursuing a "cut and run" strategy in Afghanistan that has emboldened terrorists and made the U.S. less safe.

"The administration's Afghanistan policy defines cut and run," Kerry said in remarks at Howard University on Thursday. "Cut and run while the Taliban-led insurgency is running amok across entire regions of the country. Cut and run while Osama bin Laden and his henchmen hide and plot in a lawless no-man's land."

Kerry's "cut and run" accusation echoes criticism Republicans have leveled at Democrats who have challenged Bush's handling of the Iraq war.

A potential 2008 presidential candidate, Kerry lashed out at the administration on the same day the White House announced meetings later this month with the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"John Kerry lacks the credibility on the war on terror to be taken seriously," said Republican National Committee spokesman Danny Diaz. "The junior senator from Massachusetts would be well served by not using his own agenda's mantra to falsely attack this administration's foreign policy."

Afghanistan has been plagued by an upsurge in violence by the Taliban, which is trying to topple the U.S.-backed government in Kabul. Military commanders have called for an extra 2,500 troops to help the NATO force in Afghanistan.

Kerry wants at least 5,000 additional troops sent there, contending that the Bush administration has focused on Iraq while failing to respond forcefully to threats in Afghanistan and Iran.

"The central front in the war on terror is still in Afghanistan, but this administration treats it like a sideshow," said Kerry, adding there are seven times more troops in Iraq than Afghanistan.

"When did denying al-Qaida a terrorist stronghold in Afghanistan stop being an urgent American priority?" Kerry said. "How is it possible that we keep sending thousands of additional U.S. troops into the middle of a civil war in Iraq but we can't find any more troops to send to Afghanistan?"

The Republican National Committee dismissed Kerry's criticism.

"John Kerry lacks the credibility on the war on terror to be taken seriously," said spokesman Danny Diaz of the four-term senator, a longtime member of the Foreign Relations Committee. "The junior senator from Massachusetts would be well-served by not using his own agenda's mantra to falsely attack this administration's foreign policy."


© 2006 The Associated Press