Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hears Testimony on 2014 Exit from Afghanistan

                                               Sen. John Kerry Chairman Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Caryn Freeman 2:00PM EST
In a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today Chairman Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and other, members of the committee questioned what our end goal is in Afghanistan and what are the steps needed for a 2014 exit from Afghanistan. The question raised by the committee was "who will pay the bill to insure that Afghan forces will not mobilize into the next insurgency" Senator Kerry asked, the Senator also noted that General Petraeus and the Secretary of Defense have both admitted that there is no military solution in Afghanistan and our lack of clarity on the outcome has caused Pakistan and Afghanistan to continue to be unstable. Witnesses included, Dr. David Kilcullen, an expert on counter terrorism and counterinsurgency, who was also civilian advisor to General Petraeus' U.S. counterinsurgency operation in Iraq and Afghanistan, Dr. Seth Jones Senior Political Scientist at the Rand Corporation and author of “In the Graveyard of Empires: Americas War in Afghanistan” as well as Stephen Biddle, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at the Council of Foreign Relations. All witnesses agreed that a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan would create an unstable Pakistan and expressed concern over where the country’s nuclear arsenal would end up. Dr. Jones also described instability within al Qaeda not only related to the death of Osama bin Laden but factions within the organization among younger members of the Taliban who are not Arab and see themselves as fighting a different Jihad than that of the Jihad of early members of the Taliban.

Senator Boxer (D-CA) had a heated exchange with Dr. Seth Jones over the will of the Afghan people and their desire to see an end to Taliban control of their country. "I would like to go back to why we there in the first place. We went there to get Osama bin Laden" the Senator declared, "the raid was a turning point in Afghanistan after training 125,000 Afghan police and 159,000 military and there are now less that fifty al Qaeda in Afghanistan." Dr. Seth Jones with the Rand Corporation made the argument that if we leave Afghanistan now, "Afghans will not see the U.S, as a reliable ally." Boxer shot back "If ten years hasn't convinced the Afghan people that we are reliable ally why would you assume more resources would prove this?" "Are they to assume we will be there forever? I don't think you give enough credit to the Afghan people who don't want the Taliban there. What's real is the dead wounded and losses. Your testimony is very disturbing and is based on faulty perception.” The Senator then asked that it be admitted to the record that Dr. Jones reccomendations to the committee included a request for another 40,000 combat troops in Afghanistan. "I don't expect to change our policy due to misperception" Boxer said before she left the hearing. Senator Kerry agreed that a unilateral precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan was not a viable option and said, "it is fundamentally unsustainable to spend ten million dollars a month on a military operation that has no end in sight.”