Washington D.C. – Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX), Lead Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee delivered the following opening statement at today’s full committee hearing  on U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

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-Remarks as Delivered-

“The U.S. has been in Afghanistan for almost 19 years. It is the longest war in the history of the United States. We have sacrificed much on the battlefield, but we have also achieved a great deal. We decimated al-Qaeda and greatly weakened their global network. As a result, Afghanistan has not been the staging ground for another successful attack against our Homeland.

“After the 9/11 terror attacks, it was clear that our approach to foreign threats and intelligence efforts needed to change. We could no longer sit back and wait while our enemies plotted attacks thousands of miles away. We needed to go on offense, and we did.

“Our presence in the region allowed us to capture Khaled Sheik Mohammed, kill Osama bin Laden and more recently, remove his son Hamza from the battlefield. I visited Ambassador Crocker there and saw first-hand the challenges we faced and the opportunities we had to succeed.

“We’ve led the charge on other important issues as well, beyond those on the battlefield. They include:

•          Supporting democracy and women’s rights;

•          Countering the drug trade;

•          Developing the private sector and promoting economic growth;

•          Fighting corruption and;

•          Stabilizing former Taliban-controlled districts, among others.

“This type of work doesn’t always make the news, but it is vital to their future and our security. Unfortunately, there have been many costly missteps. We know about these missteps because of the important work performed by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). Since 2001 the United States has spent an estimated $132 billion on development assistance – $132 billion. SIGAR has found that much of this money was wasted, stolen, or failed to address the problems it was meant to fix. This was clearly not the best use of American tax dollars.

“For example, we have spent $9 billion on counter-narcotics programs. Yet, today, Afghanistan is the largest producer of opium which finances our enemies. How is it possible that after two decades, billions of dollars spent, and thousands of lives lost, we still can’t slow drug production? Our efforts in counter-narcotics have clearly failed. We have also learned that our strategy to build an Afghan army and police force has not made the security situation any better.

“A lack of coordination, the misuse of funds, and insufficient training for Afghans has failed to reduce violence across the country. This is completely unacceptable. The publication of the “Afghanistan Papers” in the Washington Post last month serves as a sober reminder of our past mistakes and underscores the importance of the Trump Administration’s efforts to end the war.

“The American people have been very patient with our involvement. We have sacrificed greatly. In fact, two American soldiers lost their lives in an attack this weekend. We owe it to them and others who have served to finally get this right. We need to step back and learn from the mistakes we’ve made.SIGAR’s lessons-learned program, initiated in 2014, offers key insights into the complex challenges we face.

“These evaluations provide opportunities for Congress and the Executive Branch to prevent the same mistakes from happening again in Afghanistan or in other operations around the world. I’d like to thank Mr. Sopko for his work on this very important report and for appearing today before this Committee. I look forward to a thoughtful discussion on this important topic.”