President Barack Obama’s plan to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan has proven divisive. Supporters hail it as a clear-eyed approach to a limited engagement. Some detractors want fewer troops; others want more. The issue of declaring a planned drawdown to begin in 18 months also is controversial.
The News Tribune contacted several retired general officers with ties to the South Sound to ask their opinions.
Maj. Gen. John Hemphill was awareded a Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery in the Korean War and later commanded a battalion and brigade in Vietnam. He retired in 1985 and now lives in Steilacoom:
“He’s playing politics. He’s not out to do anything. That’s what’s so tough on the soldiers. If you’re not going to go in there and do the job right, why go in there at all?
“(The timetable for withdrawal) is politics. We’re saying we’ll pull out in such-and-such a date when he should go over there now and ask the troops, ‘What do you think?’
“Afghanistan is like a child with many disabilities that has been in many foster homes. The US/NATO foster home will leave, but the disabilities remain. And what are the disabilities? The whole economy? The security? The 14th century (way of life)? It’s probably the poorest country outside of central Africa.
“We’re not doing the people any good with a surge and then walking away. They’re not going to be ready to take over. They’re nowhere near where Iraq is in terms of being able to take over. …
“If that’s what your commitment is, why not just pull out and let the Chinese and Indians and Pakistanis any good. We’re not doing the country any good. Period.
“I know it sounds like the right thing, to send (NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan commander Lt. Gen.) Bill Caldwell over there to set up an armed force and a police force that should be able to handle the country. But it takes time to train those people.
“It’s like back in Vietnam. Henry Kissinger told the people in Paris that we were going to pull out whether the North Vietnamese pulled out nor not. So why do it if they’re just going to sit back and wait for you to go? That’s just common logic. Anyone with a little bit of sense can figure that out.”