Wednesday marks 14 years since the start of the war in Afghanistan. At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday, U.S. Commander John Campbell offered some updates on the fight to maintain a stable government in the region and ensure terror forces do not gain control. The committee was right to be concerned, considering just last week the northern city of Kunduz fell to the Taliban.
When it was Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) turn to interrogate Campbell, he asked the commander what the military’s goals were in the region: “What would winning look like?”
“Having a stable Afghan and a professionalized army and police,” Campbell said. “People could go to school, work.”
The opposite, he said, would be an unstable government that would provide opportunity for insurgents to thrive.
“Do the Afghan people want us to stay?” Graham followed up.
Campbell said we “overwhelmingly have that support.”
Graham then asked if the commander agreed with his notion that if we slash our presence to 1,000 forces in Afghanistan by 2017, as President Obama has pledged to do, there’s a “90 percent chance the country falls apart.”
Campbell responded by saying he “doesn’t know” if he’d put a percentage on it.
Yet, Graham insisted having so few forces would not be enough to create an effective counter terrorism process.
“A better trained counterterrorism force is better for stability, but there’s no substitute for American forces to protect the homeland,” Graham said. “They would have a focus the Afghans would not have. We would be nuts to not have a counter terror effort in Afghanistan.”
Campbell, while not stating the exact number of forces needed, agreed it’s imperative to have a counter terrorism force in effect because we need to continue to build Afghan capacity and counter terror capability to keep pressure on ungoverned stations.
Campbell also addressed the tragedy in Kunduz last week in which a Doctors Without Borders medical facility was hit in a U.S. airstrike, leaving 22 innocent people dead. Campbell acknowledged it was a "mistake."