Rohrabacher Presses Defense Dept. on Afghan Aid

Aug 1, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Rep. Duncan Hunter, two California Republicans, on Monday wrote to the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff urging them to provide sufficient military support to stop the Taliban’s advance in Afghanistan.

“We have been in Afghanistan for over 15 years but have failed in developing an Afghan aviation capability needed for them to prevail over their radical Islamic adversaries,” the lawmakers said in their letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. “This failure puts in jeopardy the advances that we have invested so much blood and treasure to attain.”

Rohrabacher and Hunter avowed that top U.S. military leaders would be held accountable for failure in Afghanistan. “If the Afghans are overwhelmed by the Taliban,” they wrote, “it will be the responsibility of those senior US military officers who were responsible all along to fix this problem. In large part, because of their failure, the Taliban is surging and al-Qaeda/Daesh are gaining strength across the country. The loss of life and territory are at their highest levels in years.”

Rohrabacher chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats. Hunter serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

"We are writing to express our alarm over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.  Recent Taliban advances in Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Kunduz provinces are more than troubling. The Taliban is effectively adapting its tactics to gain advantage on the battlefield, while we seem unable to effectively structure our own efforts or even seriously consider potentially worthy alternatives as realities change on the ground.  Sadly, this closed mindset seems to imply that failure in Afghanistan is an option for our senior military leaders. 

We have spent a significant amount of taxpayer dollars to train and equip the Afghan National Army (ANA).  With proper leadership and adequate support, the ANA is capable of defeating the Taliban insurgency.  Unfortunately, because of the inflexibility of our military leaders, it seems, we are not able to provide them the support they need--especially support to the Afghan Air Force (AAF).  This inflexible outlook and failure to provide needed aviation support will lead to overall mission failure.

Afghanistan currently cannot provide the combat supply and systems support they need, especially, aerial medical evacuation, air resupply (including bundle drops), close air support, and overhead collection of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. We have been in Afghanistan for over 15 years but have failed in developing an Afghan aviation capability needed for them to prevail over their radical Islamic adversaries.  This failure puts in jeopardy the advances that we have invested so much blood and treasure to attain.  If the Afghans are overwhelmed by the Taliban it will be the responsibility of those senior US military officers who were responsible all along to fix this problem.  In large part, because of their failure, the Taliban is surging and al-Qaeda/Daesh are gaining strength across the country.  The loss of life and territory are at their highest levels in years.

The prediction of failure does not have to be a foregone conclusion.  A professional concept has been developed, which impressed Members of the House and Senate, to provide the needed aviation support to the AAF and give the anti-Taliban forces the means to prevail.  This program would operate only until the U.S. Air Force solution being implemented by the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing is viable, which we are told will be at least two years in the future.  This temporary fix would include military aircraft being retired from service by various countries, but with thousands of hours of safe operational life left on them.  It would be an Afghan procurement decision, and Afghan operated and controlled.  It would work with private contractors--not active US military personnel.  These aircraft would follow Afghan rules of engagement.  This $250M package limits risk to US military personnel, accomplishes the mission, is much less expensive and preserves the life of our aircraft and other equipment.  Significantly, the new support package could be fielded in just a few months after being approved.

Using our own aircraft for this mission could be shortsighted as it would continue to strain our overworked inventory and gamble that future readiness levels could be maintained imagining that budgets for refurbishment or replacement will be sufficient.  From our perspective in Congress, that assumption may prove to be imprudent. We are almost $20 trillion in debt and cost effectiveness in how every mission is accomplished must begin to be a major part of the thinking of senior military leaders.

It is our understanding that although there is the highest level support within the Afghan government and military for this program, our military leaders had no interest in learning the details of this potential opportunity.  Instead, we sense a certain indifference to battlefield outcomes and deference to bureaucratic process.  It is tragic and ironic to read reports that the Afghans may seek support from others, including the Russians, to help on this issue.

This episode has not inspired confidence in Congress about the professionalism of our top military leaders.  Many of us in Congress have been engaged in dealings with Afghanistan for many decades, and when expressing our concerns to the senior military leaders in Afghanistan we were ignored or rebuffed.  All we expected was a professional response, which we did not get.  Certainly we support proper procedure and compliance with appropriate laws and acquisition regulations.  We expect that as part of the response to this letter that you acknowledge that there is no legal restriction preventing serious consideration by the US military of alternative battlefield concepts, especially when being presented to you by Members of the House Senate.  America’s military personnel have done their duty in Afghanistan, sometimes at the expense of their own lives, and we owe it them and their families to do what we can and examine every alternative to ensure that their sacrifice has not been made in vain."

Contact: Ken Grubbs, 202.225.0145

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