The New America Foundation’s Afghanistan agenda

Kerry Patton Contributor
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The New America Foundation (NAF), a self-proclaimed “non-partisan think tank,” recently drafted and released a new strategy for the Afghan war. NAF has made every effort to demonstrate its non-partisanship.  But in the end, NAF is a liberal, partisan think tank attempting to influence the military’s Afghan War policy without having any military or national security expertise.

NAF’s founder, Ted Halstead, who also founded a liberal economic and environmental think tank called Redefining Progress, is an Ivy League academic and journalist with a liberal agenda. While he claims to be neither liberal nor conservative, rest assured that he is indeed a flip-flopping liberal who sides with those who are willing to fund his initiatives. Note that Halstead made a career writing for The Washington Post and The New York Times.

Halstead made Steve Coll NAF’s president. Coll is also an academic with no military or national security background. He is an investigative journalist with twenty plus years’ experience writing for The Washington Post and The New Yorker Magazine.

The entire NAF team, specifically its Afghan Study Group, is filled with academic and media elites who have no real background in anything related to terrorism, counterinsurgency, irregular warfare, intelligence, or national security as a whole. So why should our policy makers listen to them?

Not only are government policymakers listening to NAF’s Afghan War recommendations, politicians — both Republican and Democratic — are securing public funding for NAF. Senator John McCain and others have secured well over a million dollars for the organization.

While every American would love to see our best and brightest warriors return home safely and soon, we cannot jump the gun too fast in Iraq and Afghanistan. Less than a week after President Obama stated that all combat missions in Iraq have ceased, violence surged to an all-time high. This suggests that as soon as we leave Iraq, Iran will fuel a civil war in the country.

NAF’s strategy for Afghanistan is flawed.  NAF wants to reduce our military force in the country that harbored those responsible for 9/11. Our policymakers are willing to listen to these journalists and academics, but refuse to listen to former military leaders like Maj. Gen Paul Vallely who have written extensively about the unconventional strategies needed for operational success in Afghanistan. Vallely is not alone though. Many former military leaders have spoken out in support of new approaches to fighting irregular wars like the one we’re fighting in Afghanistan. Most of these people have been ignored.

The question remains, since when were journalists and academics suited to influence military policy? Since when have organizations like NAF been deemed capable of influencing military policy even though they lack national security expertise? Since when has it been okay for politicians to spend our tax dollars on think tanks like NAF?

A disheartening agenda has taken hold in America. That agenda is led by liberal elites. They have surrounded themselves with wealthy heavy hitters who are willing to fund every idea they have. Many of these organizations should be looked at cautiously as they are hindering America’s progress as a free, secure, capitalist nation.

Kerry Patton served in the U.S. Defense and Justice departments, and as a contractor within the Homeland Security and State departments. He has worked in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe, focusing on intelligence and security interviewing current and former terrorists, including members of the Taliban. He is the author of “Sociocultural Intelligence: The New Discipline of Intelligence Studies.” Currently, Mr. Patton teaches for Henley Putnam University and is the Northeast Regional Director for Stand Up America www.standupamericaus.com.