U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement after a House Armed Services Committee hearing on security and stability in Afghanistan. The hearing included as witnesses Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
“It is clear following the responses of Secretary Gates and others that our efforts in Afghanistan suffer due to the depth of our commitment in Iraq.
“Iraq and Afghanistan are two countries of similar size and population. In Iraq, we have roughly 164,000 troops, including the bulk of our special operations assets, and we spend more than $11 billion a month. In Afghanistan, the country used as a safe haven by al-Qaida while planning the September 11 attacks, we have only 25,000 troops and spend around $3 billion per month. The mismatch results from our making Iraq the highest priority to the point that we neglect a key front in the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban.
“The witnesses before the House Armed Services Committee gave a blunt summary of our approach in these two countries: ‘In Afghanistan, we do what we can; in Iraq, we do what we must.’
“Secretary Gates avoided the obvious – that we need much of the materiel and manpower currently bogged down in Iraq – by saying he wasn’t ready to ‘let NATO off the hook’ in Afghanistan. As important as it is to keep pressure on our allies to commit to the effort, that alone will not make the kind of difference we need to see in that country.
“When I travel to Afghanistan to talk to troops in the field and commanders on the ground, the simple message I hear is that we do not have enough troops and resources in Afghanistan to secure the region from the Taliban and al-Qaida. The resources, manpower, and focus we need to succeed against those that actually hit us on 9/11 will not be available until we reduce our presence in Iraq.”