WASHINGTON - Today, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following opening statement, as prepared for delivery, at the hearing entitled, "U.S. Defense Strategy in South Asia." For testimony and other information and to watch the hearing click here.
"The Committee welcomes the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today for a hearing on Afghanistan and South Asia.
The Secretary had previously indicated that he would be back to discuss the Administration’s approach to this region once it was decided, and that is the topic for today. I understand that there are many issues facing the Department and this Committee, but in the interest of time and focus, I encourage Members to confine their question to today’s subject.
The United States officially launched Operation Enduring Freedom on October 7, 2001, just about exactly 16 years ago. Approximately, 2,400 American service members have lost their lives in the Afghanistan conflict. Another 20,000 or so have been wounded.
As this Administration formulates its policies, the American people and Members of Congress have some basic questions -- questions such as:
Does American national security still warrant our military presence in Afghanistan?
Do we have a strategy to succeed or one to avoid failure?
How is this Administration’s approach different than previous approaches?
Can we ever be successful in the face of Afghan corruption and Pakistan’s duplicity?
Both Secretary Mattis and General Dunford have considerable personal experience with this conflict, and I believe that they are as authoritative as anyone in helping provide answers to our questions and to chart the way forward. But these fundamental issues do need to be discussed openly for the American people and for those who have sacrificed over the last 16 years.
That is the reason we are here today."