WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last Thursday to assess the American transition in Afghanistan, Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., called on President Barack Obama to quit delaying a decision on the number of U.S. forces to remain in Afghanistan after 2014.
Corker, the ranking Republican member of the Committee, had made his fourth trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan over the previous weekend to evaluate U.S. policy in the region and to assess progress toward the planned reduction in U.S. forces in December 2014.
"The administration has got to make a decision on what the force structure is going to be in Afghanistan. Our allies are going to have difficulty provisioning if we wait much longer," a news release from Corker's office quoted his remarks at the hearing on July 11.
"Capital outflows out of Afghanistan are increasing dramatically, a situation which is causing the economy to be less than it could, because we have yet to state what we're going to do, generally speaking, as it relates to force structure ...
"And, I'm telling you, this continued looking at our navel, trying to make a decision, having competing forces at the White House, is hurting us.
"It's hurting our efforts in Afghanistan. It's hurting our military, and it's hurting our allies," said Corker.
He also noted that the completion of a successful bilateral security agreement and the Afghan elections in 2014 are critical to Afghanistan's future.
According to the news release, reports last week indicate that the Obama administration may be considering leaving zero U.S. troops in Afghanistan as a result of frustration over the recent actions and rhetoric from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, as well as domestic political pressures.
At the July 11 hearing, Senator Corker urged President Obama to avoid these pressures and instead base his decision on U.S. national interests and preserving security progress made by the U.S. military.
"I'm asking this administration to look beyond Karzai -- he's going to be gone in April -- to look at our national interest, to make some decisions with clarity and show some world leadership, and do the things that we need to do as a nation to support these outstanding men and women in uniform that have sacrificed life and limb, the taxpayers that have sacrificed precious dollars, and move on with this."
Senator Corker also called on the administration to address the role of Pakistani intelligence in colluding with the Haqqani Network, a group of militants who are targeting U.S. and Afghan forces for attack and undermining security in Afghanistan.
"We know for a fact that the ISI, the intelligence arm of the Pakistani military, is helping coordinate, directly, activities with the Haqqani network in Afghanistan, that they are conducting high-profile activities designed to kill and maim Americans and destabilize Afghanistan ... We've got to rectify that problem," said Corker.
The senator's trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan included meetings with senior government and business officials in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the Afghan president, leading Afghan opposition politicians, the chief of staff of the Pakistani Army, and the head of Inter-Services Intelligence, and the Pakistani prime minister's senior advisor for foreign affairs.
On Sunday, July 7, in Afghanistan, Corker also visited with Tennessee service members in Kabul and at Bagram Airfield and met with senior U.S. military officials, including ISAF Commanding General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. and 101st Airborne Commanding General James C. McConville.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 11 were:
* the Honorable James Dobbins, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. Department of State;
* Dr. Peter R Lavoy, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense;
* Mr. Stephen Hadley, Senior Advisor for International Affairs, U.S. Institute of Peace;
* Mr. Ahmad Nader Nadery, Founder and Chairman, Fair and Free Elections Foundation of Afghanistan;
* and Ms. Sarah Chayes, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.