Transcript: Dr. James Miller says recent tragedies shouldn’t ‘blind us’ from progress made in Afghanistan

House Armed Services Committee Hearing on the Recent Developments in Afghanistan 3.20.12

Transcript of testimony by Dr. James Miller, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy:

Dr. James Miller, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. SOURCE:

“Mr. Chairman, the United States’ objectives in Afghanistan remain to deny safe havens to Al Qaeda, and to deny the Taliban the ability to overthrow the Afghan government.

“This administration is committed to meeting these core objectives in Afghanistan. And while we have serious challenges, our strategy is succeeding.

“Our counter-terrorism efforts against Al Qaeda have been extremely successful. Although the job is not finished, there is no doubt that we have severely degraded Al Qaeda’s capacity. As a result of the surge launched in 2009, we have broken and reversed Taliban momentum in Afghanistan. And the Afghan security forces [ANSF] are increasingly capable, and increasingly in the lead.

“Mr. Chairman, our forces are performing extremely well as I saw firsthand in a trip to Afghanistan less than two weeks ago. We are well into a process of transition to ANSF leadership as agreed at the 2010 NATO Lisbon Summit.

“In fact, today, almost 50% of Afghans already live in areas that have begun the transition process to ASNF lead.

“As an interim milestone, at some point in 2013, the ANSF will be in the lead for providing security across Afghanistan. At that time, U.S. and Coalition forces will be in a supporting role, which will take a number of forms. This includes U.S. and Coalition forces partnered with Afghan units as already occurring in many places today, and it will include the smaller footprint associated with U.S. and Coalition forces in a ‘train, advise, and assist’ role.

“By the end of 2014, the ANSF will be fully responsible for the security of Afghanistan. By that time, U.S. and Coalition forces will have moved to a much smaller presence focused on counter-terrorism, and on training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces.

“Mr. Chairman, there is no doubt that the Afghanistan war has been a tough fight. In the last several weeks they’ve been particularly difficult.

“The inappropriate handling of Korans at Bagram Airbase was an error that – while unintentional – sent precisely the wrong signal. This unfortunate act stands in stark contrast to the many years during which U.S. forces have demonstrated deep respect for the religious practices of the Afghan people.

“Even more recently, the Afghans and we have had to respond to the horrific killings of 16 Afghan civilians in the Panjwai District in Kandahar. The Department of Defense is conducting a full investigation of this senseless act. As you know, a suspect is now in custody and is at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Justice will be done, and any responsible will be held accountable.

“We have also been challenged in recent weeks by attacks by Afghan personnel against their U.S. and Coalition forces, so-called ‘Green on Blue’ attacks. We will have to work through these incidents and these challenges as President [Barack] Obama and Secretary [Leon] Panetta discussed within the last week with President [Hamid] Karzai.

“But it is critical that these tragic occurrences not blind us to the significant progress we have made. I’d like to give some examples.

“From 2010 to 2011, enemy-initiated attacks in Afghanistan were down 9%. This trend has continued in 2012. For January and February this year, enemy-initiated attacks are down a further 22% from 2011 levels for the same months.

“In October 2008, there were only 140,000 Afghans in the ANSF. Today, there are approximately 330,000. And we expect to reach our goal of 352,000 ANSF ahead of the October 2012 target date.

“Today, almost 90% of Coalition operations in Afghanistan are carried out in partnership with the ANSF, and ANSF is in the lead for more than 40% of operations.

“As you know, we’re negotiating a Strategic Partnership between the United States and Afghanistan that will frame our enduring relationship. This Strategic Partnership will demonstrate that we learned the lessons from 1989, when our abrupt departure left our friends confused and our enemies emboldened.

“In partnership with President Karzai and the Afghan government, we recently completed a crucial milestone when General Allen co-signed a memorandum of understanding on detention operations with Afghan Defense Minister [Abdul Rahim] Wardak.

“We are also working with the Afghans on a memorandum of understanding on ‘special operations’, which when completed will further strengthen our partnership.

“Concluding the Strategic Partnership will send a clear signal that the United States remain and will remain committed to Afghan security. Such an assurance must continue beyond our planned transition in 2014. As President Obama said in the State of the Union address, ‘We will build an enduring partnership with Afghanistan so that it is never again a source of attacks against America.’

“The need for a long-term commitment extends to our coalition partners as well. As NATO Secretary General [Anders Fogh] Rasmussen said in December, ‘[O]ur commitment does not end with transition… We will finish the job to help create a secure Afghanistan – for our shared security.’

“Achieving a durable peace in Afghanistan will require some form of reconciliation among Afghans. It is by no means certain that this effort will bear fruit in the near term but it is very much in our national security interest to try. As Secretary [Hillary] Clinton has said, any negotiated outcomes with insurgents must meet our unambiguous redlines for reconciliation. Insurgents must: (1) renounce violence; (2) break all ties with Al Qaeda; and (3) abide by the constitution of Afghanistan.

“Success in Afghanistan will depend on the support of Afghanistan’s neighbors, particularly Pakistan. Like Afghanistan’s other neighbors, Pakistan has legitimate interests that should be understood and must be addressed. Pakistan also has responsibilities. Most importantly, Pakistan needs to take further steps to ensure that military and extremist groups cannot continue to find safe haven in Pakistani territory. Pakistan has powerful incentives to do so. In 2011 alone, some 2,000 attacks in Pakistan resulted in about 2,400 deaths, mostly from improvised explosive devices [IEDs].

“Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify here today.

“We embarked on this fight a decade ago to ensure that the terrorist networks that struck in New York; in Washington, DC; and in the skies over Pennsylvania would never again be able to use Afghanistan as their sanctuary.

“Thanks to the great courage and skill of the U.S. Armed Forces and civilian personnel, to our Coalition partners, and to our Afghan partners, our strategy is working. While success in warfare is never guaranteed, we are on a path to meet our objectives to deny safe haven to Al Qaeda, and to deny the Taliban the ability to overthrow the Afghan government.

“I would like to conclude by thanking the Committee for your continued support of our effort in Afghanistan and your strong support of our great men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces.

“Mr. Chairman, thank you, and I look forward to your questions.”



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