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Letter to Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan, Lt. General Douglas E. Lute

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Kerry Asks White House to Refocus on Afghanistan with New Study Group

Sen. John Kerry and four other senators today asked the Bush Administration to create a bipartisan Afghanistan Study Group to review strategy and develop recommendations for bringing stability to the country. The letter cited growing chaos, and noted that failing to deal with military, political, diplomatic and economic problems in Afghanistan will continue to empower Al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban insurgents. The letter was co-signed by Sens. Joe Biden (D-Del.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY).

The request to create an Afghanistan Study Group comes on the heels of a UN study released yesterday indicating that opium production in Afghanistan has reached record levels, despite ongoing U.S. counternarcotics efforts. Afghanistan's opium is used to fuel terrorism and insurgency.

"Afghanistan must not become the forgotten war," said Kerry. "Our intelligence agencies recently estimated that Al Qaeda is regenerating its ability to attack the U.S. homeland from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The Administration would have a much better chance of improving the situation in Afghanistan if they created an experienced, bipartisan Afghanistan Study Group to come up with comprehensive answers, just as the Iraq Study Group did."

"We'd have a much better chance of improving the situation in Afghanistan if the administration were willing to make this the top priority it should be," Kerry said today.

"Afghanistan is winnable - but we're not winning because this Administration took its eye off the ball and diverted our energy and resources to Iraq. The time is now for a high level, bi-partisan, independent assessment of what it will take to get us back on track in Afghanistan and to rid its people of the Taliban, al Qaeda and narco-traffickers once and for all," said Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joe Biden.

"The situation in Afghanistan is critical, and I, along with several of my Senate colleagues, have written to Lt. General Douglas Lute expressing our concerns," said Dodd. "I believe the creation of a bipartisan Afghanistan Study Group is essential to receiving an honest and thorough assessment of the challenges we continue to face. The stability of Afghanistan is critical to our national security and it is my hope that Lt. General Lute will quickly establish an Afghanistan Study Group."

"We cannot afford to fail in Afghanistan, where the planning for the September 11 attacks originated," said Clinton. "A bipartisan Afghanistan Study Group would provide useful analysis and recommendations for how to address the complex challenges that we face in Afghanistan."

Boxer said, "For too long, the Bush Administration has treated Afghanistan like an afterthought while focusing almost exclusively on Iraq — a country that had nothing to do with the devastating terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. As a result, Afghanistan remains plagued by violence, lawlessness, and rampant drug trafficking. It is my hope that the establishment of an Afghanistan Study Group will help turn the situation around."

The letter is attached below:

August 24, 2007

Lt. General Douglas E. Lute
Assistant to the President and
Deputy National Security Advisor for
Iraq and Afghanistan
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear General Lute:

We write to express our serious concern about the dire situation in Afghanistan. Given the importance of succeeding and the complexity of the challenges we face there, we recommend the creation of a bipartisan Afghanistan Study Group to provide a comprehensive assessment and offer recommendations on the way forward.

Bringing lasting stability to Afghanistan is vital to U.S. national security interests. The country served as a sanctuary for the terrorists that struck us on September 11, 2001, and the recently-released National Intelligence Estimate makes clear that an emboldened Al Qaeda has "regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability" along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. As former NATO Supreme Commander Gen. James L. Jones put it, "If we don't succeed in Afghanistan, you're sending a very clear message to the terrorist organizations that the U.S., the U.N., and the 37 countries with troops on the ground can be defeated."

While some progress has been made, recent reports show that conditions remain grave and it is clear that we have reached a critical stage in the mission. The resurgent Taliban has taken advantage of a safe haven in Pakistan to launch more attacks in Afghanistan, contributing to a steady rise in the level of violence. As President Karzai stated on August 5, 2007, "The security situation in Afghanistan over the past two years has definitely deteriorated." Yet NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is still not at full strength, significant restrictions remain on many of its troops, and there is serious concern that some NATO countries may actually begin withdrawing troops. Further, poppy production, which provides significant funds for the insurgency, increased 49% in 2006 and is equivalent to nearly half of Afghanistan's GDP.

Addressing Afghanistan's myriad and interrelated military, political, diplomatic and economic problems poses a significant challenge. The issues that must be addressed include enhancing reconstruction efforts, implementing civil reforms essential to establishing the rule of law, training Afghan security forces more effectively, reducing corruption, coordinating dozens of international and non-governmental organizations, ensuring full integration of U.S. and ISAF military and intelligence operations, fostering greater cooperation with Pakistan and other countries in the region, guaranteeing that adequate resources and personnel are available, and creating a sustainable counter-narcotics strategy.

We believe that our prospects for success would be greatly enhanced by convening a bipartisan group of senior officials with relevant experience, along the lines of the Baker-Hamilton Commission for Iraq, to conduct an objective and comprehensive assessment of our overall strategy and make recommendations for the future. In fact, the Defense Committee of the British House of Commons has already completed a similar effort, and its report included several recommendations that warrant serious consideration.

We hope you will agree that the timely formation of this Afghanistan Study Group is an important step towards reinvigorating America's commitment to a stable, secure Afghanistan. We are also prepared to pursue any legislative efforts that will be helpful in moving this process forward.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this urgent request. We look forward to receiving a response at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

John F. Kerry
United States Senator

Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
United States Senator

United States Senator
Christopher J. Dodd

Hillary Rodham Clinton
United States Senator

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator


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