Washington D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith made the following opening statement at today’s full committee hearing on: “The Afghan National Security Forces”:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing. I would also like to thank our witnesses here today, Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy and Lieutenant General Robert Neller, the Director for Operations on the Joint Staff, for their testimony.
“This is an important hearing. First, the program to develop the Afghan National Security Forces is one of the largest, in dollar terms, programs the United States currently has underway. Even after the Administration revised the FY12 budget request for ANSF downward by $1.6 billion, we’re still likely to be providing over $11 billion for this program next year. Further, as many observers have pointed out, even if everything works according to plan, the Afghan government is not going to be able to provide sufficient funds to support and maintain the ANSF, so we will be providing billions more each year for years to come. Let me be clear—I am not suggesting that we should not spend this money. But if nothing else, the sheer amount of current and future funds that will be provided for this program demands that this committee conduct vigorous oversight of the effort to develop the Afghan National Security Forces.
“Secondly, this hearing is important because we simply have to get this effort right. Even leaving aside that ineffective Afghan Security Forces would represent a colossal waste of funds, the reality is that Afghan National Security Forces incapable of increasingly taking responsibility for the security of the Afghan people and the Afghan state would represent a colossal policy failure. If the Afghan Army and Afghan police cannot become effective organizations, respected by the Afghan people, and, over time, responsible for the fight against the Taliban, our strategy will have failed.
“Neither of these potential failures is an acceptable outcome. I believe that the President was right to begin redeploying troops out of Afghanistan and to begin to transition lead responsibility for security to the Afghan National Security Forces, where appropriate. It is in our interests to ensure that this transition happens as quickly as it can without taking undue risks.
“I hope the witnesses here today can help us understand the progress being made by the Afghan security forces, where there are challenges, and what the way forward looks like. The NATO Training Mission --Afghanistan’s 180 day review from May 2010 noted significant problems and concerns, including high attrition among the Afghans, shortages of NATO-provided trainers, a lack of quality leaders in the fielded forces and the supporting ministries, and lagging development in the rule of law including corruption. In May 2010, the International Crisis Group noted problems with ethnic friction and political factionalism in the Army. All of these are serious concerns, and I hope our witnesses will help us understand where we have made progress and where we still have work to do.
“Again, thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing, and thank you Secretary Flournoy and General Neller for appearing here today.”