March 22, 2012

Manchin: Our Mission in Afghanistan is Not Sustainable

At Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Manchin once again says our resources should be focused on rebuilding America

Washington, D.C.—In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) questioned General John R. Allen, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force and Commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan; and the Honorable James N. Miller, Jr., Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy about the United States’ continued presence in Afghanistan and the long-term sustainability of the Afghan security forces. Senator Manchin has repeatedly expressed his reservations about the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, and his strong view that America’s resources should be focused on rebuilding America. 

“I’ve always said we should really be here rebuilding America,” Senator Manchin said. “We have so many needs here in our country rather than the money we’re spending in Afghanistan. And I have been there – I’ve had the honor of going twice – once as a Governor, to thank our Guards people for the jobs that they do, and then back as a Senator. 

“Sir, I did not see an improvement over the five-year lapse … I saw deterioration. So I came to some of the conclusions because of what I experienced. But I will say this: I did not see things getting better despite the best efforts that we’ve put forward.”

Senator Manchin expressed his deep concerns that our Afghan allies killed more U.S. troops last month than either the Taliban or al-Qaeda. The Wartime Commission on Contracting on Iraq and Afghanistan estimates that waste and fraud average about 12 million dollars every day for the past ten years, or about $4.4 billion per year for the past 10 years. 

“That would go a long way in West Virginia, I can assure you,” Senator Manchin said. “We’ve given $85 billion to rebuild Afghanistan. Many of these projects are not sustainable.”  

Senator Manchin questioned whether or not the Afghan Security Forces would be able to sustain themselves once America leaves the region, especially because Afghans remain dependent on the American military for transportation, intelligence and logistics. 

“The Afghan people know war and have had their military rebuilt by multiple foreign powers. According to a recent Rand report sponsored by the Army, the Soviet goal was 315,000 – to build their Afghan troops to 315,000 -- they never got there because the Afghan military was plagued with corruption, illiteracy and desertion.  Those are the very same problems that I understand we are facing now. 

“Our goal has been stated as to build the Afghan security forces to 352,000 by October of this year … so my question would be … as the Afghan Army built in the 1980s did not last, what is your assessment of how long our Afghan Army will endure that we are trying to build now and will they be able to secure their country without our help once we leave?”

Under Secretary Miller replied that  “There is no question that growing this force and then sustaining it as a quality force is going to be a continued challenge.”

In addition, Senator Manchin raised his concern that China is the only country extracting any resources from Afghanistan – but the Chinese don’t have a boot on the ground or a dollar invested there. 

“And I know that they’re expecting us to give them the protection that they’re needing and the infrastructure for them to extract that mineral that their country will profit by. That’s just beyond my comprehension,” Senator Manchin said. “That we could be doing that there when we should be taking care of America.”

Video of the hearing is available here:

Senator Manchin begins his questions at about the 2 hour, 29 minute mark.