Hearing Of The House Committee On Foreign Affairs - "U.S. Strategy In Afghanistan -- Part II"


By:  Howard Berman
Date: Dec. 10, 2009
Location: Washington, DC

Last week, the Committee heard from Secretary Clinton, Secretary Gates, and Admiral Mullen, three of the President's top national security advisors. They did an excellent job in making the Administration's case for the new strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Today, we welcome the top American officials on the ground in Afghanistan: Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry, the chief of mission at our embassy in Kabul; and General Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of all United States and international forces in Afghanistan.

The President and his team have made it very clear that our efforts to degrade the Taliban and defeat al Qaeda cannot stop at the Durand Line. Indeed, nearly all of the jihadi groups operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan -- al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, LET, and others -- have joined together in an extended terrorist network that shares the same goals, including destabilizing Afghanistan and destroying the Pakistani state.

Fortunately, there appears to be a growing recognition in Pakistan that it is impossible to differentiate between different terrorist groups, and that the same people killing American, international and Afghan troops are now arming suicide bombers in the streets and markets of Pakistan and killing Pakistani civilians.

We sympathize with the plight of the Pakistani people, who have suffered great losses from the growing number of terrorist attacks in that country. As reflected in the legislation recently passed by Congress, we are committed to doing what we can to improve their economic and physical security.

As all of our witnesses emphasized in last week's hearing, the President's military strategy in Afghanistan can only succeed if it is accompanied by a robust "civilian surge" designed to improve governance, strengthen the rule of law, and promote economic development in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. This fact often gets lost in the debate about troop levels and the time frame for withdrawal, and we must make sure that these critical civilian programs aren't short-changed.

To that end, Ambassador Eikenberry, will you have enough capable civilians on the ground to help strengthen governance, build rule of law, and promote economic enterprise? Will these civilians have sufficient knowledge in these areas to be effective? Will they have sufficient experience operating in dangerous environments like Afghanistan? And are 974 civilians, as the Administration has proposed having on the ground by early next year, all we need? If not, when will you be able to tell us exactly how many are required? What will your new civil-military campaign plan include that the August plan did not?

With regard to the military strategy, I am curious: One of the keys to our success in Iraq was the "Sunni Awakening," in which thousands of Sunni tribesmen, many of whom had participated in or aided the insurgency, essentially switched to our side. Is there any prospect of a similar shift in Afghanistan? Can we succeed in Afghanistan without such an "awakening?"

Finally, General McChrystal, will 30,000 troops -- even with an additional 7,000 apparently pledged by other nations -- be sufficient to break the Taliban's momentum? Can we meet the President's objective of degrading the Taliban by focusing primarily on the South when the Taliban is already operating in the North? What types of soldiers -- trainers, civil affairs, infantry -- will comprise this 30,000 increase?

Now I'm pleased to turn to the Ranking Member, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, for any opening remarks she would like to make. And following that, we will proceed immediately to the testimony of our distinguished witnesses.

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