Transcript: Democratic Rep. Adam Smith says U.S. must leave Afghanistan as ‘soon as we responsibly can’
House Armed Services Committee Hearing on the Recent Developments in Afghanistan 3.20.12
Transcript of opening statement by Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-Wash.):
“Gen. [John] Allen, Dr. [James] Miller, appreciate your leadership and support.
“I want to start by agreeing with the Chairman’s opening remarks about the progress that has been made in Afghanistan. Since the surge was announced, there has been considerable progress made throughout the country. And I am aware of progress was made because of the bravery and leadership and considerable efforts of our troops and our ISAF partners.
“We have pushed the Taliban back, particularly in the south. Those of us who have traveled there regularly could tangibly see the improvements. The villages that we’re able to walk through that were major combat zones just a few months before is evidence of the hard work and the progress that is being made.
“Perhaps as important as the security gains, you are seeing in the district and the provincial level significant improvement in governance. One of the things I was impressed about the last time I was there is I saw a great deal more USAID, State Department, people on the judiciary side – basically the basic building blocks of governance were being put in place and that too gives sustainability.
“Unquestionably, we’ve made enormous progress in the last couple of years towards giving the Afghan government and the Afghan people the chance to have a stable and lasting government.
“Now progress should not be, you know, underestimate the challenge that remains. Afghanistan is a very difficult country. It’s very poor. Its economy is very difficult. They have a history now of well over 30 years of civil war and the insurgent groups are still present. We can’t imagine that we’re ever going to leave a perfectly stable, perfect democracy in Afghanistan.
“But the progress has been made and I think the thing we can all feel good about is that we have a much, much better chance that when we leave there will be a stable government that will be able to stand and stop the Taliban from returning to power. We must always remember that that was the goal that the President clearly stated. You know, defeat, dismantle Al Qaeda and make sure they and their Taliban allies cannot come back. We are much further along the road to achieving that goal now than when we were two years ago and that’s due in large part to the efforts of our troops and we must thank them for that.
“But the bottom line is we are not going to stay there forever. I don’t think that anybody would say that we should. And if we’re not going to stay there forever then we need a plan to leave and to leave responsibly. And that’s what was first put in place by the President in 2009 and then solidified at the Lisbon conference in 2010 with NATO.
“We have what I think is a realistic plan. We simply cannot say, ‘Well, we’re never going to leave. We’re going to stay because we’re fearful if people think we’re going to leave that therefore gives them the advantage.’ Truth is, it also gives them an advantage if we leave in the minds of the Afghan people that we’re never going to leave. The effect of that is, number one, undermines the confidence in the Karzai government, the confidence of the district and provincial governments, because they do not look like governments that can stand on their own; they look like governments that will be forever dependent upon foreign forces. It also gives the Taliban a very strong propaganda argument that that government is but a prop for a foreign occupying force and that too will fuel the insurgency. We have to balance that out.
“And also we have to understand that having well over 130,000 foreign troops in a country does cause destabilizing effects. I mean, imagine in your own community if everyday you have foreign troops rolling down the streets as if they own the place.
“We need to get to a point where we turn this back over to the Afghan people as soon as we responsibly can. And the progress that we have made gives us the opportunity to do that.
“But to simply say that, you know, we’re going to stay forever if something goes wrong undermines that very plan.
“So it is my hope, Gen. Allen, Dr. Miller that you will lay out for us how we are making progress on that. And as we go forward how we’re going to make that responsible transition that I think everybody in this room wants.
“We want our troops home. We want the Afghan people back in charge of their own security, back in charge of their own government. That’s what we want to get. The path is not easy but it’s one we must go down. And I commend both of you for the progress that we’ve made, and I look forward to hearing about how we can complete that mission and bring our troops home.
- Rep. Adam Smith’s (D-Wash.) website
- House Armed Services Committee’s website
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: GOP Congressman Buck McKeon warns against early troop withdrawal in Afghanistan
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Dr. James Miller says recent tragedies shouldn’t ‘blind us’ from progress made in Afghanistan
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Gen. John Allen says successful Afghan transition is ‘linchpin’ to U.S. strategy