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Olympia Snowe

A New Path Forward in Afghanistan
By Senator Olympia J. Snowe
Apr 4, 2009 - 10:33:32 PM

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On March 27th, the President presented Congress and the American people with an honest assessment of our strategic position in Afghanistan and underscored that America's core mission must be redefined. President Obama also announced that along with the 17,000 additional combat troops authorized in February, he intends to send 4,000 more this fall to serve as trainers and advisers to an Afghan army expected to double in size over the next two years. Saying that this initiative will require significantly higher levels of U.S. funding for both countries, President Obama expects to increase U.S. military spending in Afghanistan by about 60 percent. The U.S. military currently spends about $2 billion a month in Afghanistan alone.

Late last year, I traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan visiting remote outposts directly along the border and met with Prime Minister Gilani of Pakistan and Afghan President Karzai as well as senior and tactical military and intelligence officers and other government officials, including Afghan Defense Minister Rahim Wardak, the Army Chief of Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the head of the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence service, General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan William B. Wood, the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force, General David D. McKiernan, and the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson.

It was clear the United States undoubtedly stood at a crossroads on how to stem the violence in both countries. As military and civilian deaths tolls rise and the flow of militants along the porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan continues virtually unchecked, it is abundantly clear that we must re-evaluate our strategy – the security situation has deteriorated to a point that decisive action is necessary.

First and foremost, I have witnessed firsthand the unwavering dedication to duty and consummate professionalism of our troops currently in theater and there can be no denying the phenomenal capacity and readiness of our men and women to fulfill their mission and succeed at the highest levels as they employ sterling skill and training, boundless bravery, and unconquerable mettle against forces that are truly formidable.

I support President Obama's call to increase our footprint in Afghanistan, but it is imperative that any increase in activity is carefully targeted. Moreover, the Karzai government must combat the rampant corruption inhibiting its political and economic progress and the narcotics trade that continues to enable the Taliban and al Qaeda, or every step forward the Afghan government attempts will be hobbled by these corrosive influences.

Pakistan must do more as well. Pakistan has still failed to pledge to formally cut ties between the Pakistani Intelligence Service, the ISI, and Lashkar and other extremist groups. Pakistan must take unambiguous and durable steps to distance itself from these groups.

Furthermore, as the President underscored this morning, it is imperative that our NATO partners provide additional forces to train the Afghan National Army and Police as securing the region must be an international objective.

Clearly, we must act swiftly to shift the current course in Afghanistan or risk a major step back in foreign policy. We must temporarily increase troop levels in order to put the enemy on the defensive, initiate a full-scale civilian effort, accelerate the expansion of the Afghan National Army, improve the competency and integrity of the Afghan National Police, and most importantly, foster cross-border cooperation between the key governments in the region.

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