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Hearing of the House International Relations Committee - United States Security Policy in Afghanistan on the Eve of National Elections

Location: Washington, DC

Federal News Service September 23, 2004 Thursday








REP. RON PAUL (R-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Shortly after 9/11 we passed the resolution that gave the authority to the president to go into Afghanistan. And the mission then was stated fairly clearly, was to go after the al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. I would suggest that our mission has changed and now there's mission creep, and we're not even talking about what we went in there for, is Osama bin Laden. Now we have occupation and now we're involved with nation building, and now we want to expand it into making the world safe from drug dealers. And quite frankly, I think we're going down the long path which doesn't look too productive.

A picture of Afghanistan has been painted, I think, overly optimistic. You read the newspapers, what you're talking about doesn't even exist from the reports that I read about what's really going on. And when you hear about Doctors Without Borders leaving, after having been there through the Russian occupation. The U.N. wants to leave. Protection of the president is very precarious. We don't know what will come of that.

The airport's getting bombed. There's estimates that 90 percent of the country, at least a very large percent of the company, is under the occupation of the Taliban and the warlords. We have a serious disconnect here and we have to be-as Americans and as members of Congress, we have to be realistic and not hide from the realities of what's happening.

Even our memorandum from the staff states that, "The marriage between warlords and the drug trade continues to erode the existence of the rule of law in Afghanistan." And I believe that is very accurate. The question comes up about our allies. Why don't they do more? And I think Chairman Hyde is really onto something, that they don't have popular support back home.

You know, in a way we're working real hard for an election like even an imperfect election is going to solve all our problems. Just have an election. Of course, if we have an election in Iraq and we get a radical Shiite, we're not going to be happy. And we're told that won't happen. But here we are waiting and begging and pleading and struggling for an election.

At the same time, when our allies have an election and they have a democratic process, and they say, we don't want to go in there, then we hound them for not doing what we want. So I don't know if we can have it both ways. And I think that it is correct that they're not there because the democratic process in those home countries of our allies are saying, you know, is this worth it all?

And my question is, if we start admitting the truth, which I think ultimately your position or our position of those who have great concern, it won't matter. The truth will come out in the end. But if the truth is that things are tough, what would it take? What would it really take? Because I've realized we will not go back to the original mission and abide by the terms and go after the al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, because we're off even nation building elsewhere.

But if we want to do what you're suggesting we do, continue to fight for this election, occupation, nation building, clean up the Taliban, get it safe against all drug production, how many troops, General, do you think we would need to do that? I mean, how many would it take, honestly? We have, what, 17,000 now. And unless you argue the case that things are just fine and dandy, we don't need anymore help, then we have to say, well, what do you need to do it? How many troops would you need?

GEN. SHARP: Let me start off by saying that when you ask the commanders there on the ground, given their mission to destroy Taliban and al Qaeda, to train the Afghan National Army and to bring stability and security throughout the country, working with ISAF and working with the Afghan National Army and the police forces within Afghanistan that we have trained as part of that mission, which get right at the counterterrorism. Because, as you know, Afghan National Army soldiers are standing side by side with us on the south and on the east border, killing Taliban and al Qaeda today.

When you ask commanders what more do they need, they say they have what is necessary in order to be able to accomplish those missions. So I paint a better picture than you do, sir. I believe that if you look at the progress that's been made in Afghanistan, look at any of the criteria as far as where the majority of the areas within the country that even by U.N. maps, which are very conservative, are go versus no-go, the majority of the country is go. Yes, there are some very-there are some areas along the south and the east and in a couple of other that are not, but we-and to get back to your original point of killing Taliban and al Qaeda, that is the focus of OEF. That is where the great, great majority of the 17,000 soldiers that we have sent over there, in coordination with the other countries that are part of OEF, are accomplishing their mission today.

MR. CHARLES: If I can add just a short add-on to that direct response, I think you have a panel here that is all about truth, Congressman. This is a group of people who will tell you exactly as it is. And I think we have a lot to be proud of over there. We can go-if you want province by province, we can walk through program by program. But it is a fundamentally different place. We have run a lot of the terrorists out of business or killed them. We are training and moving a structure toward democracy. And I just want to hit your three points.

The issue about an election, why is it magic? Well, you know, the beauty of democracy is that legitimacy and authority will flow from that election and from the national assembly, and it is an incredible thing to be pushing toward. It will no doubt be imperfect, elections are always imperfect in some way or another. But the reality is it puts the people in charge, and that is the beauty of it because legitimacy flows. And that will cause the central government to have greater authority over the provincial governments and to begin to move the ball forward. That is extremely important for us on the justice sector and on the counternarcotics.

On the drugs and the mission creep, I wouldn't call it mission creep at all, I would call it a realistic assessment. Again, we're all about truth of what is going on there and why it is very important to understand that the revenue flow to some of these very individual nodes, maybe a dozen total, very wealth warlord/drug traffickers and of course the extremists is coming out of drugs. But let's again be realistic and clear about it. Only 8 percent of the cultivated land in Afghanistan today is dedicated to poppy, 92 percent is dedicated in rank order to cereals, wheat, barley and corn.

And that 92 percent only feeds 10 percent of the market in Afghanistan for food. They make about three to 10 times as much on poppy, so we have to raise the costs and the risks of doing business in poppy by getting a justice sector, going after these people, making it clear, examples of some of them, maybe, you know, people like Juma Khan and Norzai (ph). We've got to go after them and make it clear that this is not permissible. But at the same time, we also have to raise the incentives and the rewards of being in the legitimate economy. We are doing all those things.

And to put a metaphor with it, it's as if someone said to you, I want-in 24 hours, I want you to stud up a house, put a roof on, lay the foundation, make it all happen. We are trying and we're working pretty well together toward that end. And the Afghans are working with us and President Karzai is working with us. But it will take time. And our real enemy here, again, is time. It is not any of the other individual granular pieces.

Finally, on police. Imagine for a moment a country that has no police to speak of and now 25,000 police have been trained and 15,000 ANA. They are what is going to stabilize the selection and make it legitimate. So all of those are hopeful and I think things the American people should be proud of.

REP. HYDE: Ambassador Watson?

REP. DIANE E. WATSON (D-CA): I'm hearing-thank you, Mr. Chairman-that there are other countries within the region that are not giving a full contingent. Then I just heard from the general that we have all that is needed, and I hear a very optimistic picture that will have free and fair elections. And then I read-I don't know if it's the media manipulating and spinning-that security cannot be guaranteed. I understand that Karzai has a private security firm that is responsible for his protection. It's hard to know what to believe.

Now, you are the gentlemen who are on the ground, and of course we get our information from the media. We don't get information from staff. We really don't. I don't care whether it's classified or public. We have to watch the media.

Can someone clarify for me what the legitimate reality is of Afghanistan, and can we be assured that we have the security necessary to have a free and fair election with the kinds of things we're hearing through the media. Their spin, I would imagine. And so I'm sitting here. I've been sitting here since we started and taking notes. And I don't know what the true story is. Can someone help me?

GEN. SHARP: Let me start, ma'am, with two things.

First off, the conditions as far as the number of attacks and where we've seen attacks recently, where our concerns are there. And then secondly I'll give you specifically what the security plan is for the election period itself.

REP. WATSON: Thank you.

GEN. SHARP: First off, on attacks. Since the May-June time period, attacks have been up mostly against our forces and against Afghan National Army forces as we conduct operations in the south and the east. That is where the great majority of attacks that are coming. And it is us getting after them and them trying to respond to stop the elections, to start a security issue to the point where there will not be elections.

We do not believe that they will be able to do that. And Karzai and the people of Afghanistan are adamant that they are going to do these elections. If you look at the number-the percentage that have registered to include women, the Afghans have spoken. They're going to have this election.

So, secondly, what are we doing to make sure that we've got the elections best postured in order to be able to have a secure environment for the voters to be able to go? First off, there's three rings of security that are going to be in place around the election time. The first ring, which is the inner ring, the first layer, is going to be primarily Afghan police officers. They'll be at all the polling stations, the 25,000 that Mr. Charles talked about. Trained, coordinated at all the different polling stations.

The second layer is the Afghan National Army that have been trained and equipped. They'll be out, they'll be doing patrols through the areas, they'll have quick reaction forces that are able to go to areas of violence as we move through. Third will be coalition forces, both OEF and ISAF forces. Again, primarily where we believe the key problem areas are going to be, where the key places of a lot of voters are going to be to provide quick reaction to those two inner layers.

With the help of both Afghanistan, individuals within the government, OEF and ISAF, the U.N., there has been several exercises that have taken place over the last month or two to pull all of these organizations together and do not only the planning but actually exercises in the what-ifs for election day, and that coordination has taken place. There is a combined election operations command center that has been established in Kabul that has, again, all of the elements that I talked about in one location with a communications setup ready to be able to do the election support as it goes through.

So can I say that there will be no violence? Absolutely not. I'm fairly convinced there will be some violence on election day. But we believe that we've got the security in place to be able to make the great, great, great majority of Afghanistan safe. And the voters, I am confident, will come and vote.

MR. CHARLES: If I could just add to that again, to reinforce this idea that the Afghans have spoken. We have, in fact, Ambassador, believe it or not, sometimes had days or weeks when you've had 120,000 a day registering. They are absolutely dedicated to the proposition of participating in democracy. And I think the numbers are 41 percent of the group are women, a very strong turnout, supporting the idea of, in a sense, gratitude to all those who've made it possible for them to be a self-determining country. So I don't doubt that it will occur.

The rule of law is difficult. And you know, again, perhaps better than most, that there are forces out there seeking desperately to prevent good from happening. And we're going to encounter them no doubt there, as we do in Iraq. But, again, optimism can also be realism, and that is what is happening now.

GEN. SHARP: One last point on troops that have been deployed, both from the United States and other places, that are going to be there to surge, to have extra troops there join the elections. ISAF has deployed two extra quick reaction force battalions, one from Spain and one from Italy. And they are there on the ground now. They have also deployed an addition five companies that will go out and help protect and be part of the security for the five PRTs that ISAF owns. And then finally, as you've read this morning in the paper, they were sending a battalion out of the 82nd Airborne that will go be a reserve quick reaction force for General Barno there on the ground. So from the international community we have added more additional forces for this period during the elections.

REP. HYDE: Chris Smith.


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