Republican and Democratic senators have grilled Trump administration officials about the war in Afghanistan, saying American taxpayers’ money is being wasted on a failed war.
During their first hearing Tuesday on the war since the Republican president unveiled his strategy in August, the lawmakers questioned whether Trump’s policy will bring an end to the war that enters its 17th year.
The members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expressed concern to State Department and Pentagon officials that the current strategy will not help achieve the stated goal of forcing the Taliban into peace talks and ending the conflict.
Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat, said, “I don’t think there is a clear path out of Afghanistan and I worry that the Taliban will simply wait us out regardless of how long we are there, and as a result we may be there the rest of my life.”
“Something is clearly not working,” said Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat and longtime Afghan war critic. “By any standard, the current security situation is grim.”
Also, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, another war critic, said, “We’re in an impossible situation. I see no hope for it,” noting, “I feel sorry for putting the military in this position.”
On August 21, Trump announced he would prolong the military intervention in the South Asian country, which he had once described as a “complete waste.”
Speaking at a nationally televised speech before a military audience at Fort Myer, he unveiled his decision to continue the US military intervention, albeit with conditions.
“Our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check. The American people expect to see real reforms and real results.”
Since Trump took office, the number of troops has nearly doubled in Afghanistan – from 8,500 in early 2017 to 14,000 today.
With US officials estimating that the military presence in the war-torn country will cost taxpayers more than $45 billion this year, the senators argued that those funds could be spent at home.
Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and Randall Schriver, the assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, defended the strategy, arguing that it is governed by progress on the ground rather than a fixed timetable set out by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.
“We have a policy that we believe in,” Sullivan said, noting that a US withdrawal could lead to a Taliban victory which could give terrorist group al-Qaeda a stronghold from which it can attack the US.
Defense Secretary James Mattis also defended the strategy, saying it is aimed at preventing another 9/11.
The United States — under Republican George W. Bush’s presidency — and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror.