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Congressman Ted Lieu

Representing the 33rd District of California

4 VETERANS IN CONGRESS WRITE TO SECRETARY MATTIS EXPRESSING "GRAVE CONCERNS ABOUT THE DIRECTION OF THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN

June 21, 2017
Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WASHINGTON - Today, Congressmen Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Ted Lieu (D-CA), John Conyers (D-MI) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis expressing serious concerns regarding the future direction of the US military campaign in Afghanistan.  Their letter criticizes the administration for the lengthy delay in finalizing its strategy for the conflict and expresses strong skepticism that the addition of several thousand US troops will be sufficient to achieve America’s objectives.  After 16 years of fighting and the loss of thousands of American lives, the Members also urged Mattis to clearly state that America’s military commitment in Afghanistan will not be open-ended. 

“Secretary Mattis is right – we definitely aren’t winning in Afghanistan.  And it’s completely unacceptable that 6 months into the new administration, President Trump and his advisors still can’t agree on a strategy,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a Marine Corps combat veteran.  “Deploying a few thousand additional American troops might buy the struggling Afghan government more time, but it certainly won’t produce any lasting gains.  I strongly object to sending more brave young Americans into harm’s way without a real plan, simply to kick the can down the road.”     

“A decision on increasing U.S. military operations in Afghanistan should originate from clearly-defined political objectives—not the other way around. It is deeply troubling that six months into the new Administration, the President has not articulated his strategy for the wars our men and women in uniform are actively fighting,” said Rep. Ted Lieu. “The American people deserve a clear cut plan for strategic success, not political bluster and inconsistent, inadequate leadership.”

The text of the letter is below.  A signed copy can be found here.

Dear Secretary Mattis:

We write to express our grave concerns regarding the future direction of the war in Afghanistan, a conflict which is the longest in the history of our nation.  

We agree with your assessment that “we are not winning” but with this in mind, it is disconcerting that nearly five months into the new Administration, a plan for how to achieve our national security objectives in Afghanistan remains unfinished.  We are also troubled by what appears to be systemic miscommunication between the White House and the Department of Defense, particularly on the issue of delegated authority on troop levels.   

We understand that General Nicholson believes that he needs “a few thousand” more troops in Afghanistan. However, given the fact that US forces in Afghanistan numbered more than 60,000 just five years ago, we are unconvinced that the addition of 3,000 to 5,000 American troops will be sufficient to quickly or sustainably roll back the advances achieved by the Taliban.

Our skepticism is reflected in the recent testimony of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats who stated that, “[t]he intelligence community assesses that the political and security situation in Afghanistan will almost certainly deteriorate through 2018, even with a modest increase in military assistance by the United States and its partners.”

You have described victory in this conflict as a scenario in which, “the Afghan government, with international help, will be able to handle the violence and drive it down to a level that local security forces can handle it.”  Given the high levels of bloodshed in the country and the fragile gains achieved despite a robust American military commitment since 2001, we strongly believe that military force alone will be insufficient to achieve this goal.

The augmentation of our forces that the Administration is contemplating may yield limited, short-term gains, but without a long-term strategy and a sustained diplomatic effort, additional troops are unlikely to enable the struggling Afghan state to provide lasting security and effective governance to its people.  For this reason, in your upcoming strategy, we strongly urge you to recommit the United States to seeking a political solution to the war in Afghanistan.  A negotiated settlement remains the best and only means of ending this conflict.  Moreover, your plan must also convey the clear message that America’s commitment is not open-ended.  After 16 years of fighting and the loss of thousands of American lives, the United States must be unambiguous about its intention to eventually draw down American forces.

Thank you for your service to the nation.  We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

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