Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of the Committee: This Committee has long provided our country strong leadership and bipartisan support, especially now as the United States wages the war against terrorism. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you today the Defense Department’s perspective on how the campaign in Afghanistan to kill, capture and disrupt terrorists has helped us protect the American people, and how we are helping the Afghan people help themselves to ensure Afghanistan does not once again become a terrorist sanctuary.
- How the Campaign in Afghanistan Has Helped Protect the American People
To chart the way ahead, it is important to understand how we got to where we are. From the beginning of the war on terrorism, President Bush emphasized that the United States must apply "every resource at our command, every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence and," the President concluded, "every necessary weapon of war, to the destruction and defeat of the global terror network." Each has a role; each reinforces the others. The military is only one of the instruments that we need to wage this war on terrorism. The military cannot do its job without the support of other elements, particularly intelligence, and its role is frequently to support the efforts of those other instruments of national power.
This hearing is focused – and appropriately so – on Afghanistan and our military effort there, but it’s important to emphasize, as we have from the beginning, that this campaign is not about a single country or a single terrorist network. Al Qaeda alone is spread throughout the world; it is a network. A network, by its very nature, is based on the idea that should one node be eliminated, the network can still continue to function.
Well before September 11, 2001, al Qaeda had burrowed into some 60 nations, including the United States and Germany, France and Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines. It had critical nodes in Hamburg, Germany and Jacksonville, Florida as well as Afghanistan. The pilots who flew the suicide attacks were not trained in Afghanistan; many got their training in the United States.
Afghanistan was an important node in the network, but by its nature a network does not have a headquarters. So, while we focus on Afghanistan today, we must understand that Afghanistan is only one node of this terrorist network. The very name of this organization, al Qaeda, which means "base" in Arabic, indicates that the entire organization is the base of terrorist operations. It is spread throughout the world and it needs to be eliminated, root and branch.
In Afghanistan, where al Qaeda’s malignant plots and plans flourished under the protection of the tyrannical and corrupt Taliban, America’s armed forces went to work to root out both. Our intent, as Secretary Rumsfeld said, was to deprive the terrorists of a sanctuary in Afghanistan where they could safely plan, train and organize – not only to capture and kill terrorists, but to drain the swamp in which they breed. Over the last eight months, with our coalition partners, we have defeated a vicious and repressive regime that gave refuge to evil. We have killed or captured many of its ringleaders. And we have others on the run, where they are more vulnerable.
Even in Afghanistan, our work is far from complete, but we are encouraged by the many truly remarkable aspects of the campaign to date.
Our military campaign in Afghanistan has had some striking features, some surprising, others less so. Not surprisingly, we have seen America’s men and women in uniform conduct their operations with great bravery and skill, as we saw at Mazar-e-sharif, Tora Bora and in Operations Anaconda and Mountain Lion. What may have been a surprise to some was the remarkable speed with which military plans were put together, the swift success of the military operations – in weeks rather than months, and with relatively few troops on the ground. On September 11th, remember there simply was no war plan on the shelf for Afghanistan. General Franks was starting from scratch on September 20 when he received the order to begin planning, but less than three weeks later, on October 7th, we commenced military operations. And less than two weeks after that, troops were operating on the ground. In many ways, it was a remarkable feat of logistical and operational agility.
Another element of our success, which was undoubtedly a surprise to the terrorists but barely noticed by many others, was something that did not happen, something that calls to mind Sherlock Holmes’ famous observation about the dog that didn’t bark. We did not become bogged down in a quagmire – unlike the British in the 19th century and the Soviets in the 20th century. Nations that arrive in Afghanistan with massive armies tend to be treated as invaders, and they regret it. Mindful of that history, General Franks deliberately and carefully kept our footprint small to avoid just such a predicament. On balance, our partnership with indigenous forces has been very positive.
From the beginning of the war on terrorism, we have stressed the importance of understanding the nature of our enemy as a world-wide network. Al Qaeda is not a snake that can be killed by lopping off its head. It is more analogous to a disease that has infected many parts of a healthy body. There is no one single solution. You can’t simply cut out one infected area and declare victory, but success in one area can lead to success in others. The bottom line, as President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld have repeatedly cautioned, is that this campaign will be a long and difficult one.
Coalition forces have eliminated the secure operating environment that al Qaeda enjoyed in Afghanistan and degraded the cohesion of the worldwide network. Somewhat less than half of the top 30 or so leaders have already been killed or captured. Well over 500 enemy, as a result of operations in that country, are currently detained in Guantanamo or in Afghanistan. Equally important, if not more so, the world-wide efforts of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, in cooperation with more than 90 countries, have resulted in the arrest of some 2,400 individuals.
Our military success in Afghanistan has contributed to that success by encouraging others to cooperate. Our efforts in Afghanistan have also helped law enforcement actions more directly. Abu Zubayda, one of bin Laden’s key lieutenants, was driven out of his sanctuary in Afghanistan and was captured last March; his partial cooperation in turn contributed to the detention of Jose Padilla, who came into the United States with the intention of planning and coordinating terrorist attacks. A Moroccan detainee in Guantanamo led us to three Saudis planning terrorist acts in Morocco, all of whom were subsequently arrested, including one top al Qaeda operative. In December, the discovery of a videotape in a safe house in Afghanistan led to the arrest of an Al Qaeda cell in Singapore that was planning to attack a U.S. aircraft carrier and U.S. personnel in that country.
President Musharraf’s leadership has made Pakistan a much less friendly environment for Taliban and al Qaeda. Since last fall, the U.S. has sent the government of Pakistan about 1,500 requests for assistance on terrorist suspects. They have responded to most of them and continue to work on others. In the course of numerous raids on foreign terrorist suspects, some 370 arrests have been made in that country.
These developments are encouraging. However, it is important to remember that al Qaeda is still dangerous and active. This network still poses threats that should not be underestimated. However, when the network as a whole is under pressure and on the run, it becomes harder for them to carry out their evil plans and more likely that they will make mistakes that permit us to capture more of them.
II. Helping to Build a Stable Afghanistan
While our primary mission in Afghanistan has been to kill or capture terrorists who threaten the United States or those who have harbored them, it is also important to help the Afghans establish long-term stability in that country, so that Afghanistan does not once again become an outlaw country that provides sanctuary for terrorists. While the success of those efforts will depend most of all on the Afghans themselves, the United States and its coalition partners have a critical role to play in achieving that goal. In shaping that role, as in shaping the military campaign itself, we have been very mindful of the historical Afghan animosity to foreign armies and foreign occupiers.
We have always viewed our mission in Afghanistan as one of liberation, not occupation. So with this in mind, we have tackled the challenge of striking the balance between keeping Afghanistan from reverting back to a terrorist sanctuary, and keeping our footprint small. Afghans are an independent, proud people. For that reason, we have worked from the beginning to keep the number of our troops there small, and to focus instead on helping the Afghan people to help themselves in their journey to representative self-governance.
We have made it clear, and we need to continue to do so: we have no intent of "colonizing" Afghanistan. We have been careful, through our actions and through our words, to avoid creating the expectation that the United States can solve all of the Afghanistan’s problems. We have made a determined effort not to take sides in Afghanistan’s internal quarrels. In fact, we have seen that Afghans are good at solving problems when they must; and we must let them deal with as many as they can.
If representative government is to take hold, Afghans themselves are the only ones who can make self-government a reality. President Bush has said that the United States does not intend to create the future government of Afghanistan. "It is up to the Afghans themselves," he said, "to determine their future." As they do, the United States and our allies will continue to support the new Transitional Authority and the people of Afghanistan. Their success will contribute, not only to the long-term stability of Afghanistan, but to the peace and security of the world at large.
There are positive signs that the Afghans are making progress. Just last week, the Afghan people made a significant step forward when more than 1,500 delegates from all 32 provinces and ethnic backgrounds came together under one roof, when this traditional Loya Jirga, or Grand Council, elected Hamid Karzai president of the new two-year transitional government based on Western-style ideas of control and accountability. A Karzai senior advisor captured how extraordinary was this first step, saying that, for the first time in 23 years, the people of Afghanistan are acquiring a voice.
Along with self-government must come self-sufficiency in terms of Afghanistan’s security. That task is made more challenging by the formidable geography of Afghanistan. It is a country roughly the size of Texas, with peaks in the Hindu Kush (or "Indian Killer") Range that reach some 24,000 feet—ten thousand feet higher than the highest of the Rockies. The sheer size and unforgiving terrain of the country has been a major factor in the planning of our military operations and remains a key factor in planning long-term security arrangements.
Encouragingly, the situation is becoming more stable. Out of 32 provinces in Afghanistan, our forces have experienced harassment attacks mainly in five provinces, in the Taliban heartland of southern and eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban have so far failed to mount their often predicted spring offensive. The Loya Jirga convened with no serious security incidents – despite numerous threats – and clashes among militia leaders have been limited.
The Taliban regime collapsed quickly with no successor. Not surprisingly, criminal activity revived faster than police forces could be created. This activity tends to be localized along routes through which international aid flows: from the North and from Pakistan—incidentally, traditional areas for banditry.
Afghanistan’s lack of infrastructure is another hindrance, not only to maintaining security, but also to distributing humanitarian aid. From the beginning, humanitarian operations were a key part of our military operations—a concerted effort to reverse the desperate conditions created by the Taliban regime. Just one week before September 11th, the U.N. warned that 5.5 million Afghans, surviving on cattle feed, grass and insects, were facing death without immediate help. The defeat of the Taliban and the ending of civil war conditions have brought food to more than five million people who were facing famine last fall.
Even before last September, the United States was the largest contributor of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. When military operations began last October, those efforts were stepped up, and, from the beginning, humanitarian missions were an integral part of our military missions. Today, the picture is vastly different. Easing the plight of widespread starvation was a humanitarian duty before the war. Today it is one of the keys to bolstering political and civil stability.
Coalition partners are also contributing to stability through their humanitarian work. It is especially worth noting that Jordanian personnel have been running a field hospital that, to date, has treated 77,000 Afghan civilians. The Spanish and others have also provided assistance through their military hospitals. The Indians have provided a contingent of military medical personnel
The improvement in the situation is demonstrated by the fact that people are voting with their feet. In just the first five months of the year, 1.2 million refugees are recorded as having returned to Afghanistan already, which was the UN’s projection for all of 2002. The UN has now doubled the target to two million.
One crucial factor in the success of a representative government in Afghanistan is, first and foremost, a stable and secure environment in which it can gain a firm hold and ultimately flourish. The U.S. is committed to working with the Afghan Transitional Authority and the international community to find effective solutions to the remaining challenges to Afghanistan’s security.
One of the most important pieces is training the Afghan army. At the beginning of May, U.S. Army instructors took on the task of helping build an Afghan national army, by initiating the training of the initial group of Afghan recruits for the new Afghan National Army (ANA). Coalition partners are assisting in this effort. France has already begun training a battalion, and other countries, including the U.K., Turkey, Bulgaria, Poland, Korea, India, and Romania, are assisting with personnel or funding or equipment. In the process, we are also "training the trainers" so that the process can become self-sustaining.
To further enhance regional stability, the 18-nation International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has been helping to stabilize the situation in the capital city of Kabul since January. The British did a splendid job leading that effort in its first six months, and we expect the same from our Turkish allies who have now taken over the lead.
Last month, the United Nations Security Council extended ISAF’s mandate in Kabul until the end of the year. ISAF forces helped train the Afghan National Guard to protect Kabul during the Loya Jirga, which was held without incident. Other important efforts to provide a more secure environment include the German-led police training program and British counter drug operations.
However, the most important instrument that the Afghan Authority and we have to establish a stable security situation is the leverage provided by economic assistance. It is in our interests to provide such assistance, and to help Afghans rebuild their country after almost a quarter century of war so it will not again become a haven for terrorists.
The leadership provided by the State Department as described by Secretary Armitage, has been key to that effort. Particularly important was the organization of the Tokyo Donors Conference that Secretary Armitage has described.
Our troops on the ground are also making a direct contribution to economic assistance, implementing humanitarian projects across Afghanistan that include repairing hospitals, digging wells, and repairing irrigation canals. We repaired or built 48 schools in eight different regions of Afghanistan. And for over 30,000 children for whom the sound of gunfire was a natural part of life, school is open, certainly one of the most far-reaching ways we have helped shape their future. In Herat, with just a few U.S. personnel, a U.S. Civil Affairs project, using local labor, de-silted over 250 kilometers of irrigation canals, allowing thousands of farm families to do their spring planting. The Department is allotting $10 million dollars for more than 75 such projects, anticipated to continue through the next 12 to 18 months. These activities have been coordinated with civilian relief organizations and have already begun to positively impact the lives of many Afghans.
In support of U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, CENTCOM is also executing a plan to co-locate personnel from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department with our special forces and civil affairs teams that are operating throughout Afghanistan. This will allow USAID's people to get out beyond Kabul and better monitor U.S. assistance, while also providing them some protection in what remains an insecure environment.
CENTCOM’s humanitarian efforts have been undertaken to reduce the suffering of the Afghan people, and in the process, have helped build the conditions for a stable peace—an outgrowth of health, food, educational, and economic security. The U.S. military is proud of its contribution to the important efforts of USAID, the U.S. Department of State, the U.N. and other international agencies and non-government organizations to provide a better life and a better future for the people of Afghanistan.
Along with the many other law-enforcement, diplomatic, financial and intelligence efforts now underway, the campaign in Afghanistan has contributed to the disruption of the global terror network in tangible and far-reaching ways. But, our task extends well beyond Afghanistan and will be a long and difficult one. The stakes are enormous.
As President Bush said, speaking to cadets at West Point two weeks ago, "we have our best chance since the rise of the nation state in the 17th century to build a world where the great powers compete in peace instead of prepare for war." We can do this is not by imposing our own model of human progress on other nations of the world. But, as he said, we can support this effort "when we reward governments that make the right choices for their own people. In our development aid, in our diplomatic efforts, in our international broadcasting, and in our educational assistance, the United States will promote moderation and tolerance and human rights. And we will defend the peace that makes all progress possible."
In Afghanistan today, we see a democratic spirit rising from the remnants of a once-failed state that is trying to defy the ravages of decades of war and misrule. Despite a beginning that will, at times, be rocky and no doubt suffer some setbacks, the Afghan people are hopeful for a new tomorrow—hopeful they, too, can have a chance at peace instead of war. We remain committed to doing our part to help them on their journey. And we want history ultimately to judge us as having been dedicated to liberation, not occupation. We appreciate this Committee’s continued leadership and guidance in these ongoing efforts.