Senators Visit Afghanistan, Slam Trump Administration For Lack Of War Strategy

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham right, speaks during a press conference at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, July 4, 2017, (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Rahmat Gul/AP
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A bipartisan delegation of five senators visiting U.S. troops in Afghanistan for the Independence Day holiday issued a stark warning about the Trump administration’s lack of strategy for a military conflict that has dragged on for more than a decade.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) noted with concern that Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has yet to visit the country, and the administration has not yet nominated an ambassador in Kabul.

“It’s more than just dropping bombs that will win in Afghanistan,” Graham said. “Secretary Tillerson needs to come to Afghanistan quickly.”

Six months into the Trump administration, Hundreds of State Department posts — including many that concern diplomatic strategy for the Middle East and Asia — likewise remain vacant. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said the military told him during the delegation that they have become alarmed by this “hollowing out of the State Department.”

The senators’ visit came just a few weeks after the Trump administration approved a large increase in the number of U.S. soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan, adding several thousand more to the roughly 9,000 currently stationed. But lawmakers from both parties slammed the lack of a “comprehensive” strategy that goes beyond military action.

“Nobody on the ground here believes there is a military-only solution,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the only other Democrat on the delegation.

“A solution needs to have a military angle, but also an economic and diplomatic plan,” she continued. “It needs to involved domestic political reconciliation, and it needs to be regional in nature, involving multiple countries in the area and account for external actors and influences. The administration owes it to the American people and to our men and women putting their lives at risk, to provide that clear vision of where we’re headed.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis offered an especially bleak picture of the Afghanistan at a Senate hearing in June, noting that “the enemy is surging.”

“The Taliban had a good year last year, and they’re trying to have a good one this year,” he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.
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