Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Tuesday made the following statement at a hearing on the administration’s strategy in Afghanistan. The committee heard testimony from Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver.
Senator Corker said, “In rolling out its new South Asia strategy last August, the administration underscored the United States’ hard-fought security gains in Afghanistan and reiterated our commitment to helping establish a foundation for a political resolution.
“With recent reports of shrinking government control of territory, continued high attrition of Afghan forces, and deadly attacks in Kabul by Haqqani and ISIS-Khorasan, it is clear that foundation is a long way off.
“But we are encouraged by the troop strength authorized in the new strategy, at 12,300 military personnel, with an additional 1,000 on request, which is approaching the level our force commander requested in 2014.
“Our NATO and non-NATO allies have also reinforced their troop commitments and support to Afghan forces through 2020.
Commander General Nicholson says he now has what he needs to assist Afghans in achieving a sustainable outcome for Afghanistan and the region.
“The new conditions-based approach provides Afghans, our allies, as well as the Taliban, a clear signal of American commitment as the National Unity Government pursues critical reform and self-reliance efforts.
“This administration has also rightly drawn a clear line with Pakistan, suspending security assistance of over $1 billion as long as Islamabad continues to shelter Haqqani and other terror groups that target innocent civilians as well as U.S. and allied forces.
“This more pointed approach is designed to confront Pakistan’s duplicity and its actions to provide safe harbor to the greatest threat to our efforts in Afghanistan.
“The administration has also prioritized a broad diplomatic effort as key to a stable, sustainable, and self-governing Afghanistan that is at peace with its neighbors.
“I am pleased to hear that Deputy Secretary Sullivan and General Votel were recently in Kabul showing our resolve in the face of four deadly attacks, two attributed to the Haqqanis and two attributed to ISIS-Khorasan.
“These attacks highlight the deadly threats that remain, and we must counteract them with a far more unified international community.
“While President Trump and President Ghani have stated that these attacks may preclude a peace process with the Taliban at the moment, it is incumbent upon us to be ready when that moment occurs.
“I welcome our witnesses and hope to hear more specifics of this strategy, especially in the area of economic and personal diplomacy, in order to make the most of the military gains General Nicholson projects.
“And with that, I’ll turn to our distinguished ranking member, Ben Cardin.”