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

Click to Watch

-Remarks as Delivered-

“Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this important hearing.  Also, I would like to thank Ambassador Khalilzad for briefing committee members this morning where we had a robust and informative discussion on a range of timely issues. I look forward to staying engaged. ‘

“I do want to say for the benefit of the Members in this committee, the Chairman and I stand unified in our commitment to preserving the integrity of this committee. This is the second oldest committee in the Congress, dating back to the Continental Congress. We do have Article I, Constitutional Oversight Responsibilities, and we do deserve that respect.

“Just last week, we commemorated the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that took the lives of 3,000 innocent people. It is one of the most tragic days in America history. In the aftermath of 9/11, counter-terrorism and homeland security became our top priority. It was necessary to go on the offense militarily and attack the terrorists abroad. That strategy included invading Afghanistan, removing the Taliban, and destroying al-Qaeda.

“Since 2001, we have achieved many successes on the battlefield and through diplomacy. Specifically, we had decimated the leadership of al-Qaeda. We captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, killed Osama bin Laden, and most recently removed his son and rising leader, Hamza bin Laden, from the battlefield.  Most importantly, we have not allowed Afghanistan to be the staging ground for another devastating attack on the homeland.

“We have also helped implement many political and social reforms. Millions of Afghanistan’s people have voted in democratic elections at all levels, and Afghan women, who were not allowed to attend school or hold a job during the brutal reign of the Taliban during the 1990s, have made significant gains, and I was pleased to hear women were a part of these negotiations.

“These accomplishments have not been without great sacrifices. Over 23,000 Americans have given their lives in this conflict—including Sergeant 1st Class Jeremy Griffin—who was killed in action in Afghanistan just on Monday. Over 20,000 more have been wounded. We must never forget their courage or the price we paid in both blood and treasure to protect our homeland and to build a better future for Afghanistan.

“Unfortunately, the Taliban has made significant gains. Today, they control almost 50% of the country and have become increasingly violent. But, after 18 years in the battlefield, the American people and Members of Congress want to know what our plan is for peace moving forward. I’m glad the President decided against welcoming leaders of the Taliban to Camp David—particularly in the wake of 9/11. Perhaps the current suspension of talks will allow us to reevaluate our strategy.

“In this committee Mr. Chairman, I should say, and the Congress, have a role in the process. There’s no doubt that all of us would like to see this war come to an end, and I fully support the Administration’s efforts to bring a diplomatic resolution to this conflict. But there’s also real doubt that the Taliban can act as legitimate partners for peace. By all accounts, their ties to al-Qaeda remain intact. And further, the Taliban is not a monolithic organization. To only encourage engagement with the organization’s central leadership overlooks local power brokers who do not always follow them.

“We also have to keep in mind that many of the Taliban have some longstanding objections to a negotiated peace—they think our military will come home no matter what. I think some more extremist factions were responsible for that attack just to end the peace negotiations. As Ambassador Crocker has assessed, and I have visited with him many times in Afghanistan, when he said that “the Taliban will offer any number of commitments knowing that when we are gone and the Taliban is back, we will have no means of enforcing any of them.”

“We must also avoid the same mistake President Obama made in Iraq by withdrawing all our troops. For the purposes of preventing another 9/11 style attack on our homeland, I personally believe that we should keep a residual force in place to focus on counter-terrorism intelligence and partner force training.

“I’d also like to thank Ambassador Wells, Ms. Freeman, for being here. This hearing really comes at a critical time. As I can say, we did commend the prior Ambassador and Special Envoy this morning for his commitment and his service to the country in, what I consider, one of the most difficult negotiations on the planet.  And with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.”