Recap: Examining U.S. Engagement in AfghanistanBlog
Afghanistan is often called “America’s longest war.” After 17 years, what progress has been made? Where do we go from here? These were just a few of the questions raised by members at this week’s Foreign Affairs Committee hearing with the State Department’s Ambassador Alice Wells. Here are a few hearing highlights:
Terrorists in Afghanistan still pose a threat to the U.S.
Chairman Royce: “And one of the difficulties in all of this, in getting an organization – a terrorist organization – like that to the table, is the financing for that organization that makes cash ready at hand every time they’re moving narcotics. I guess one of the great frustrations is, for the last 15 years, the U.S. government has spent $8 billion focused on trying to shut down [the opium trade], and today it is still the biggest cash crop in Afghanistan.”
Ambassador Wells: “I agree. The narcotics, we assess, account for about 60 percent of the Taliban budget. But more than that, they fuel a criminal network and eat away at the institutions of state through the corruption that they also cause.”
Russian propaganda is undermining U.S. efforts.
Ambassador Wells: “The Russians have been very unhelpful in falsely accusing the United States [of] undertaking propaganda campaigns to suggest that somehow we’ve introduced ISIS Khorasan into Afghanistan and seek to artificially keep the terrorist battles going.”
Pakistan continues to aid and shelter terrorists.
Rep. Poe: “The Pakistan government has hidden terrorist leaders in the past. They’re a sanctuary for terrorist leaders. And somehow we still give Pakistan money with the promise that they will do better. … They harbor terrorists. They fight terrorists in their country, but they pay for terrorists to go across the border into Afghanistan that kills Americans and our allies and Afghans.”
Ambassador Wells: “…sanctuaries continue to exist in Pakistan for Taliban and Haqqani network leaders and fighters.”
Afghanistan still has work to do to credibly combat corruption.
Chairman Royce: “We’ve got our Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, where we spend $55 million per year just to make sure our funds aren’t misused… I would suggest that tripling down in terms of the pressure we apply on the government there to have transparency and to end those practices is the only sure way to rally confidence on the part of the Afghan population and international community.”
Afghanistan cannot be open ended – we need to see more progress.
Chairman Royce: “As we’ve heard, creating the circumstances for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan is a very complex but very critical mission. The administration has taken several good steps towards that end, but we need to see more progress.”