October 19, 2011

Manchin Questions Afghan, Iraq Commission About U.S. War Commitments

Washington, D.C. -- In a Senate hearing today about spending and waste in foreign wars, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) questioned why the United States is Afghanistan’s largest employer and expressed his disbelief that anyone could call the U.S. efforts anything other than nation-building.   

“The American people should be truly appalled that the United States is the largest employer in Afghanistan, that we build more roads and bridges and schools there than anyone else and that some people wouldn’t consider that nation-building. If that’s not nation-building, I’m not Joe Manchin from West Virginia,” Senator Manchin said. “What I heard in this hearing today confirms what I’ve been saying all along: Enough is enough. It’s time to rebuild America, not Afghanistan.”  

At a Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management hearing about the final report of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, Senator Manchin questioned panelists Frank Kendall, Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition; Lt. General Brooks L. Bash, USAF Director for Logistics; and Dov S. Zakheim, a member of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

After visiting Afghanistan for a second time in February, Senator Manchin has urged President Obama to refocus our country’s mission on counterterrorism – instead of nation-building – and on rebuilding America. At the hearing, he once again expressed his serious concerns that although the U.S. taxpayers are funding the military personnel in Afghanistan and subsidizing their economy at the expense of our own, the only nation that is profiting from Afghan mineral extraction is China. 

“I understand that to date, the only country that has been successful or making a successful attempt at mining – let’s say copper – is China. What type of investment does China have in Afghanistan that you know of, militarily, monetarily, or personnel-wise? Have you seen many Chinese military there? Have you seen much Chinese in the way of investment or infrastructure?” 

The panelists were unaware of any Chinese military presence in Afghanistan. 

In its final report, the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan found that at least $31 billion, and possibly as much as $60 billion, has been lost to contract waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. Senator Manchin believes these U.S. taxpayer dollars would be far better spent at home. During a debate on Federal Emergency Management Agency funding in September, he introduced an amendment that would have eliminated $1.6 billion from programs that fund nation building in Afghanistan to pay for disaster relief in America. 

The audio of Senator Manchin’s questions at the hearing is available here: manchin-armedsvcsqa101911.mp3