Mar 20 2012

Recent Developments in Afghanistan

Chairman Buck McKeon

Washington - House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon gave the following opening statement as prepared for delivery:

"Good morning ladies and gentlemen.  The House Armed Services Committee meets today to receive testimony from the Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Dr. James Miller, and the Commander of the International Security and Assistance Force in Afghanistan, General John Allen.  Gentlemen, thank you for your distinguished service to our nation during this critical moment in Afghanistan, and thank you for joining us today.

"The last year has been a consequential time for coalition efforts in Afghanistan.  During this time period, with the surge forces in place, United States and NATO forces have conducted major operations to push back the Taliban in the south of Afghanistan; launched operations from Afghanistan to kill Osama bin Laden and further disrupt al Qaeda; train thousands of Afghan Security Forces so that they can secure their country from terrorist and insurgent groups; and return countless numbers of civilians to school and to work.

"However, in the last few weeks, the impressive gains that the United States and NATO are making in Afghanistan have been called into question by some - due to the actions of a rogue few. Some Afghan soldiers have taken up arms against ISAF soldiers, which could diminish trust among forces that are supposed to be partnered.  A sober assessment, however, shows that partnering is valuable and necessary, there are steps that can be taken to minimize such incidents, and that these criminal actions are relatively isolated.  Moreover, the horrific incident of a U.S. Army staff sergeant who allegedly took up arms against Afghan civilians also is both isolated and a criminal act that should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  These exceptional incidents are not reflective of the hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who have honorably served in Afghanistan – nor are they reflective of the many thousands of Afghan soldiers who are being trained and are helping to secure Afghanistan today.

"Additionally, I remain very concerned about the President’s decision, last summer, to speed up withdrawal of the surge troops from Afghanistan, as well as his original announcement, in his speech at West Point, for a date certain in 2014 to withdraw all U.S. combat forces.  These decisions by the President have made it increasingly difficult to build up trust and confidence with the Afghan institutions that will ultimately ensure that the security and political gains by U.S. and NATO efforts are sustained into the future.

"Moreover, with our eyes at the exits, I am uncertain whether we will be able to achieve the key tenets of President’s own strategy, due to the constraints that the President, himself, has put in place.  For example, it has been reported in the media that the U.S. and Afghan governments are attempting to achieve a negotiated solution with the Taliban; and yet, the Taliban continue to operate with impunity out of Pakistan because they already know when we will be leaving and Pakistan has been unwilling or unable to address those safe havens.  Furthermore, due to the President’s decision to begin withdrawing the surge forces early, we increase the risk to our forces to effectively address the second part of the Afghanistan campaign plan – shifting the main effort to eastern Afghanistan and applying military pressure on the Haqqani Network, who are responsible for the most dramatic and lethal attacks in Afghanistan.  What’s more, in the absence of sustained, public campaign to support the mission in Afghanistan - from the White House on down - many have begun to question what we’re fighting for.  With friend and foe alike knowing that the U.S. is heading for the exits, our silence is likely viewed as a preamble to retreat.  And, in warfare, when the mission becomes redeployment, rather than mission success, the outcome can quickly become disorderly.

"General Allen, I have total confidence in you and your command.  The challenge in Afghanistan continues to be great, but I am certain that we can achieve the United States’ core, strategic objectives by resolving to provide you with the time and resources you need to be successful.

"I look forward to your testimony and insights into the challenges and way forward in Afghanistan."


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