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Latest US strategy in Afghanistan draws Senate panel’s rebuke, ire

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A Senate panel expressed frustration Tuesday over whether the latest strategy in Afghanistan will finally find an end to America’s longest war, reported Stars and Stripes.

In a series of sharp questions and comments, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took top state and defense officials to task over past missteps and future plans to resolve the war in Afghanistan.

Among those concerns: Annual U.S. costs to run the war in Afghanistan now exceed $45 billion; the Taliban has gained control of more territory, and a lack of transparency and mixed-messaging now cloud U.S. war efforts.
“After sixteen years, thousands of lives, probably trillions of dollars spent, the Afghans don’t seem to be able to defend themselves,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., railed during the hearing. “I see no hope for it and I feel sorry for putting the military in this position… I don’t fault the military, I just don’t think there is a military solution.”

Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan and Randall Shriver, Department of Defense assistant secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs, testified at the hearing and said they understood the lawmakers’ frustration. However, they said they are confident in the new strategy in Afghanistan, which was unveiled by President Donald Trump in August.

“The scrutiny is understandable. I would share every frustration you share about the time and investment,” Shriver said. However, “I do think the approach that we’ve adopted…I think gives us a better chance to achieve results on the battlefield, which will give us a better chance at the political settlement.”

The lawmakers expressed concern that the new strategy was more of the same from previous administrations, and light on details. Trump said in August that the new strategy in South Asia had no specific timeline or troop levels attached, and focused rather on reaching certain conditions.

“It’s been nearly six months since the administration announced its new strategy for South Asia, which as far as I can tell is quite similar to the old strategy,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. “I understand the administration is focused on conditions-based metrics for success for eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces but I hope we can get a little more clarity to what exactly are our desired outcomes are for our troops and our foreign policy goals in Afghanistan.”

Amid growing reports that the Taliban and the Islamic State might be gaining ground in Afghanistan, senators shared confusion how the United States will find a solution under the latest shift in direction.


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