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March 31, 2009

Inhofe surveys Afghanistan War

Claremore Daily Progress

Claremore Daily Progress

Inhofe surveys Afghanistan War

Joy Hampton
Claremore Daily Progress

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March 31, 2009 -

PROGRESS: As a Senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, describe that committee's role in policy setting in Afghanistan. What is the primary purpose of the committee and how does it assist the President?

INHOFE: The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) plays an integral oversight role in the policy, budgetary and resourcing initiatives of our Armed Services. Through legislation, hearings and frequent consultation with senior Department of Defense leaders, the SASC performs the Senate's Constitutional role of Congressional oversight on all defense matters. As the second ranking Republican senator, I meet frequently with senior civilian and uniformed officials to discuss and influence policy and financial issues. I use this venue to ensure that our services, and especially our troops, are given the resources they need to accomplish their missions.

PROGRESS: What key changes in U. S. foreign assistance do you believe are needed to deal with the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

INHOFE: I have long said that there is no military-only solution in Afghanistan and that Pakistan's active or passive influence of Al Qaeda is the keystone in a successful solution in Afghanistan. Specifically, we need to continue and increase our initiative to train, develop and professionalize Afghan security forces who will be essential in combating the violence by the Taliban and Al Qaeda. With a safer Afghanistan, State Department and other governmental agencies will have the chance to develop agriculture and economic opportunities.

PROGRESS: How do economic factors feed terrorism?

INHOFE: Much like the reason why Al Qaeda found a receptive atmosphere in Afghanistan while under control of the Taliban, Afghans with no means of supporting and feeding their families will resort to whatever means are available, including supporting and participating in terrorist activity or growing crops that promote the drug trade.

An Afghanistan with a solid agricultural base and the infrastructure to support it is a country that is averse to terrorism.

PROGRESS: Struggling rural communities in the U.S. and in northeastern Oklahoma have also experienced surges of reliance on the drug trade, at times. How do we combat those factors in Afghanistan? In what ways are those issues parallel to similar issues in the U.S.?

INHOFE: Like Oklahoma, Afghanistan has a large agricultural base. However, agricultural potential in Afghanistan is extremely limited compared to that in Oklahoma. One of the keys in combating the reliance on the drug trade is providing agricultural alternatives to Afghan farmers through development teams like the Oklahoma National Guard agricultural development team that will deploy to Afghanistan in late 2009 to advise Afghan farmers on irrigation and harvesting techniques.

PROGRESS: What role do you believe the Pakistani leadership plays in the current terrorist threat?

INHOFE: Though faced with a challenging dilemma of influence in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), Pakistani and Pakistani military leadership must assert their control of the border region to deny safe havens to Al Qaeda that allow them to cross the Afghan border at will and incite attacks on Afghan and coalition forces.

PROGRESS: How do you suggest we address that leadership? What rewards and sanctions might the U.S. use to assure Pakistani cooperation?

INHOFE: Pakistani leadership must be encouraged to see the widespread negative effect on security and economic opportunity that the Taliban and Al Qaeda's activity have in their region. U.S. and NATO aid to Pakistan should be directed toward Pakistani forces whose mission is to capture and kill terrorist cells within its borders.

PROGRESS: Do you agree that resources were misdirected toward Iraq that should have gone to Afghanistan?

INHOFE: What happens in Iraq affects not only Afghanistan, but it also affects what happens throughout the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the rest of the globe. Iraq was central to the War on Terror â€" al-Qaeda knew that stating their fighters want an Islamic caliphate in Anbar. Al-Qaeda presence increased in Iraq after the US went into Afghanistan looking for another safe haven to train their fighters. Additionally, the Iranian influence increased and threatened to encompass Iraq. On August 28, 2007 Iranian President Ahmadinejad stated at a press conference in Tehran, "Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region. Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap, with the help of neighbors and regional friends like Saudi Arabia, and with the help of the Iraqi nation." A stable Iraq brings stability to the region and provide a counter to Iran.

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