Sen. Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released a statement on President Donald Trump’s strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia.
“Since President Trump took office, I’ve urged him and his administration to develop a detailed plan for our path forward in Afghanistan.
“Last night’s announcement reflects serious deliberation informed by Secretary Mattis, Gen. Dunford, Lt. Gen. McMaster and other key members of the president’s national security team with deep experience in Afghanistan.
“For almost 16 years, Americans and our allies have been fighting and dying in Afghanistan, now the longest war in our history.
“I have visited Afghanistan twice as a U.S. senator, and the brave women and men who have served in Afghanistan exemplify the best of patriotism. We need to work to ensure that their sacrifices have not been in vain. Their mission to support the Afghan government in its fight against the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS, has been noble and necessary, and they deserve the full support of Congress.
“President Trump’s speech offered a few clear changes in strategy: moving from a timeline-based strategy to a conditions-based strategy with a commitment to preventing the Taliban and other terrorist groups from retaking control of Afghanistan, and using a regional approach to challenge Pakistan’s deeply troubling practice of harboring extremist groups.
“Essentially, without committing to troop levels or timelines, President Trump has said our strategy is to outlast the Taliban and other terrorist groups and to only leave Afghanistan once the Afghan government and its armed forces can maintain control of the country. This strategy would commit us and our allies to a very long and likely very costly war for many years to come and deserves to be fully debated and developed now that President Trump has presented its broad outlines.
“We all must think critically in the weeks ahead about whether the president’s strategy will turn the tide of America’s longest war at a cost we can accept.
“I have a number of important questions. Among them: how will we pressure Pakistan to shut down Taliban sanctuaries and also approach expanding Russian and Iranian influence in Afghanistan? How will our mission in Afghanistan affect the availability of forces in the event of a crisis somewhere else in the world? Will our NATO allies agree to this strategy and provide additional forces?
“I look forward to debating this strategy with colleagues of both parties in Congress.
“We should review the Authorization for the Use of Military Force against the Taliban, ISIS and Al Qaeda; the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes funding for all of the Department of Defense; and funding for all national security agencies, including the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, to make sure those serving on the front lines of this conflict have what is required to be successful in advancing our interests and values using all the tools of American power.
“Despite our country’s political divisions, we must work together to advance our values and our national security, and to support the men and women of our military. Our military’s success is our country’s success, and we must face the challenges ahead together.”