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February 11, 2020

ICYMI: Chairman Inhofe Opening Remarks at SASC Hearing on U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, gave opening remarks this morning at a SASC hearing to receive testimony from outside experts on the United States strategy in Afghanistan.

Witnesses include: Dr. Colin F. Jackson, Professor, Strategy and Policy Department, United States Naval College, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia; Gen. Jack Keane, Chairman of the Board, Institute for the Study of War, and former Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army; and Brigadier General (ret.) Kimberly C. Field, Executive Director, Albritton Center for Grand Strategy, and former Senior Advisor to the Commander, Operation Resolute Support. 

As Prepared for Delivery: 

The Senate Armed Services Committee meets today to receive testimony on the United States strategy in Afghanistan. I want to welcome our witnesses; we know them well. Gen. Jack Keane, a four-star general, who completed over 37 years of public service in 2003, culminating in his appointment as acting Chief of Staff and Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. He currently chairs the Institute for the Study of War. Dr. Colin Jackson, who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia from 2017-2019. Brigadier Gen. (ret.) Kimberly Field, who served as Senior Advisor to the Commander of Operation Resolute Support from 2018-2019.

The United States engaged in Afghanistan following al-Qaeda’s September 11, 2001, attacks on the homeland – attacks planned and executed from a Taliban-controlled and al-Qaeda-occupied safe haven in Afghanistan.

Eighteen years later, the U.S. and our partners continue to fight terrorists in Afghanistan who aspire to attack the United States and the West. 

The Taliban, though not in control, remain a dangerous insurgency supporting terrorists with international ambitions.  Al-Qaeda, though weakened, is still active. And ISIS is trying to plant roots in Afghanistan.

For this reason, many Americans, including some of my colleagues, ask, “Why are U.S. troops still there?” I’d like to offer two reasons:

First, this hearing comes at an inflection point in our Afghanistan strategy. Under President Trump, we have tried to negotiate with the Taliban to reduce violence.

I am confident President Trump will only accept a good deal – one that preserves our counterterrorism capability and includes the Afghan government. 

But the success of these negotiations depends on keeping military pressure on the Taliban. If we suddenly draw down troops in Afghanistan, it would give the Taliban exactly what it wants – for free. There would be no deal at all.

Second, while U.S. military posture has been drastically reduced in the last 18 years, the goal of our military engagement has not: to prevent another 9/11 attack.

A precipitous U.S. withdrawal would give terrorist groups in Afghanistan free rein to regroup tired forces, plot against American interests, and execute terrorist attacks.

I hope our witnesses will address the opportunities that we can still seize in Afghanistan, and the risks that a sudden drawdown might entail. I thank them again for appearing to testify.

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