US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Lugar Says Afghan Troop Withdrawal Not Enough; Mission Must be Narrowed to Counter Terrorism

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Andy Fisher • 202-224-2079

Senator Richard G. Lugar, the Republican Leader on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will tell Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a committee hearing tomorrow that the Obama Administration must re-orient its policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan to eliminate “nation building” in Afghanistan, focus on counter terrorism activities, and ensure the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

Such a strategy, Lugar says, does not require more than 130,000 troops. In previous testimony before the committee, some experts suggested no more than 20-30,000 troops are needed in the region.

Lugar’s prepared statement continues:

“Much of the discussion about U.S. policy in the region has been focused on the specific question of how many troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan.  I believe troop withdrawals are warranted at this stage, but our policy in Afghanistan is in need of much more than troop reductions on a political timetable.

“The President should put forward a plan that includes a more narrow definition of success in Afghanistan based on U.S. vital interests and a sober analysis of what is possible to achieve.  It should eliminate ambiguity about U.S. goals and make clear that we are not engaged in broad nation building.   It should include an explanation of what metrics must be satisfied to achieve the original intent of the mission – to prevent Afghanistan territory from being used as a terrorist safe haven.  Such a plan should designate and eliminate those activities that are not intrinsic to our core counter-terrorism objectives. 

“It is essential that Afghanistan be viewed in the broader strategic context.  If we set out to reapportion our worldwide military and diplomatic assets without reference to where they are now, no rational review would commit nearly 100,000 troops and $100 billion a year to Afghanistan.  An additional 31,000 troops are in the region supporting Afghanistan operations.  The country does not hold that level of strategic value for us, especially at a time when our nation is confronting a debt crisis and our armed forces are being strained by repeated combat deployments.

“Administration officials have testified that Yemen is the most likely source of a terrorist attack against American interests in the short term.  Further, we know that al Qaeda has a far more significant presence in Pakistan than in Afghanistan.  To the extent that our purpose in Afghanistan is to confront the global terrorist threat, we should be refocusing resources on Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, parts of North Africa, and other locations.  Neither political optics nor inertia should compel us to persist in outsized missions that have declined in strategic importance. 

“The military and civilian efforts of the Coalition have produced some notable progress that is measurable in relative terms.  But in many parts of Afghanistan, measuring success according to relative progress has limited meaning.  Undoubtedly, we will make some progress when we are spending $100 billion per year in that country.   The more important question is whether we have an efficient strategy for protecting our vital interests over the long term that does not involve massive open-ended expenditures and does not require us to have more faith than is justified in Afghan institutions.

“The Pakistan side of the border has a fundamentally different dynamic.  Despite the death of Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and other terrorist groups maintain a strong presence.  There is no question that the threat of these groups, combined with worries about state collapse, a Pakistani war with India, the safety of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, and Pakistan’s intersection with other states in the region make it a strategically vital country worth the cost of engagement.  The question is how the United States navigates the contradictions inherent in dealing with the Pakistani government and Pakistani society to ensure that our resources and diplomacy advance our objectives efficiently.”