September 15, 2016

Corker Statement at Hearing on "Afghanistan: U.S. Policy and International Commitments"

 United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Hearing: “Afghanistan: U.S. Policy and International Commitments”

Thursday, September 15, 2016

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Chairman

Obviously Afghanistan continues to be something that’s important to our U.S. national interest. We brokered a government – the United States did in 2014 – that created both a president and CEO office that has not been confirmed through the loya jirga. I think we had concerns about that process taking place. You wonder about the support that that government has relative to not being confirmed in the way that it normally would.

I have tremendous respect for President Ghani and a warm relationship with CEO Abdullah. Obviously their roles together have been interesting. They’ve sort of muddled through it together as one might expect with the type of arrangement that have been “created from the outside”.

I was really glad to see President Obama commit to 8,400 troops going forward. The security situation there does not warrant changing that at this time. I would’ve liked for it to have occurred earlier, but it seems like we’ve been able to continue to have the support of our allies in the region. 

I appreciate, certainly, the additional authorities that have been given to our military there to counter Al-Qaeda and to work more closely with the Afghan troops themselves. I think we know that the close air support has been very, very important to them in saving their lives and pushing back what’s happening with insurgencies there.

We have a complicated future there, and I do want to hear from both of our outstanding witnesses today. 

On one hand, we have the Taliban there that we’re continuing to counter appropriately so. And on the other hand, we’ve expressed, in the past, our desire to negotiate a settlement with the Taliban, the very people we went to Afghanistan in the first place in 2001 to take out. 

It’s very complicated – complicated further by the fact that Pakistan continues to be a tremendously duplicitous partner in this. Mr. Olson and I have talked about this on several occasions, but certainly they are working against our interests there through helping support, in the ways that they do, the Haqqani network. They are the greatest threat to American soldiers there and certainly the greatest threat to the Afghan military and civilians.

So, I look forward to our testimony. I do wish it was enhanced with someone from the military. I had a good meeting yesterday with one of the generals involved with the transition issues. I don’t understand why the civilian side of the military continues to be in over their head it seems in their ability to cooperate in hearings. It would be very beneficial to our witnesses, but they seem to be in over their heads.

So, with that, I’ll turn to Senator Cardin.