Several hours before President Barack Obama and his GOP challenger Mitt Romney participate in another much-anticipated debate, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, senior correspondent and associate editor of the Washington Post, told attendees of the 29th annual Frank Church Conference on Public Affairs that it "was a shame that there has not been a more robust discussion" on the Afghanistan conflict.
"Both candidates are doing our country a disservice in not discussing Afghanistan," said Chandrasekaran, who gave a blistering deconstruction of the Bush and Obama administrations' efforts in Afghanistan.
This year's Frank Church Conference, "Afghanistan After America," features a gathering of high-profile speakers today, culminating with a keynote address from Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, Pakistan and Iraq.
Crocker listened intently and only gave tepid, polite applause at the conclusion of Chandrasekaran's noontime speech. given to a room full of scholars, students, elected officials and veterans.
"Afghanistan has been one of the poorest nations on the planet," said Chandrasekaran. "Illiteracy, malnutrition and poverty off the charts."
But Chadrasekaran said in 2001, the U.S. government spent $4.1 billion in assistance to Afghanistan, more than the nation could absorb.
"It was the equivalent of a man dying of thirst. Instead of offering him a large class of cold water, he turned a fire hose on," said Chadrasekaran, who said the excess resulted in more corruption in Afghanistan.
As for the future, Chadrasekaran said he did witness progress among Afghanistan's army, but the nation was not fully secure.
"And I think the forseeable future is messy and chaotic," he said.