Big Press Day for Upcoming NDN Speakers Rep. Adam Smith and Peter Bergen on Afghanistan

Next Wednesday, October 28, Afghanistan experts Congressman Adam Smith, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities of the House Armed Services Committee, and journalist Peter Bergen, the Co-Director of the New America Foundation’s Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative will speak to NDN about America’s challenges in Afghanistan. Both had important contributions to the conversation today in the press, Smith in lead quote in the New York Times and Bergen in an article in The New Republic.

Here's what Adam Smith, who recently traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, had to say in a piece on Taliban financing:

Despite efforts by the United States and its allies in the last year to cripple the Taliban's financing, using the military and intelligence, American officials acknowledge they barely made a dent.

"I don’t believe we can significantly alter their effectiveness by cutting off their money right now," said Representative Adam Smith, a Washington State Democrat on the House Intelligence and Armed Services Committees who traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan last month. "I'm not saying we shouldn’t try. It’s just bigger and more complex than we can effectively stop."

And an excerpt from Peter Bergen's piece called "The Front: The Taliban - Al Qaeda Merger:" President Obama weighs whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, the connection between the region and Al Qaeda has suddenly become a matter of hot dispute in Washington. We are told that September 11 was as much a product of plotting in Hamburg as in Afghanistan; that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are quite distinct groups, and that we can therefore defeat the former while tolerating the latter; that flushing jihadists out of one failing state will merely cause them to pop up in another anarchic corner of the globe; that, in the age of the Internet, denying terrorists a physical safe haven isn't all it's cracked up to be.

These arguments point toward one conclusion: The effort to secure Afghanistan is not a matter of vital U.S. interest. But those who make this case could not be more mistaken. Afghanistan and the areas of Pakistan that border it have always been the epicenter of the war on jihadist terrorism--and, at least for the foreseeable future, they will continue to be. Though it may be tempting to think otherwise, we cannot defeat Al Qaeda without securing Afghanistan.

To see this important discussion on Afghanistan between Smith and Bergen, it's well worth viewing NDN's webcast at 7:00 pm on October 28. Details here.