WASHINGTON — The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee predicted on Wednesday that his party will “absolutely” resist President Trump’s newly announced Afghan war plan — at least until they get details of his approach, including negotiations with Islamist Taliban forces.
“There will be two areas of resistance. One is, there are a fair number of people who want to get out, who say that, you know, ‘This isn’t working, isn’t helping us, we should just get out right away,’” Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., told Yahoo News on SiriusXM radio.
“And then there are going to be people — and I put myself more in this camp — that want to see the details,” the lawmaker said.
“We don’t want to give the president a blank check to do whatever he’s going to do if we don’t know where he’s going with his policy, or what his plans are for our troops and for our commitment there,” Smith said. “And that’s what was really absent from his speech.”
Smith said he would press top Trump officials in upcoming hearings on the strategy about how they envision potential negotiations with the Taliban.
The congressman said he has been discussing the nearly 16-year conflict — now America’s longest war — with top Trump officials, including Defense Secretary James Mattis.
“I’m hearing that, basically, the plan is to fight to a stalemate to try to negotiate with the Taliban and that the one item is no support for transnational terrorists, that, basically, we can live with whatever it is they make Afghanistan into as long as it doesn’t turn on us like it did with [Osama] bin Laden, al-Qaida and 9/11,” Smith said. “So I want to hear them say that publicly, or if it’s something different to say that publicly.”
Ceding Afghanistan to the Taliban, which U.S.-led forces removed from power after the military refused to turn over bin Laden in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, would be a remarkable turn in American policy.
Smith said he would also press Trump officials on funding the escalation and on how it could affect military readiness, already hampered by the frenetic pace of deployments since the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
Smith said that it’s an “absolute fact” that any strategy will have to rely at least as much on tribal authorities as on the relatively weak central government in Kabul.
“Afghanistan has never been centrally controlled — except briefly when the Soviet Union was there, and we all know how that came out,” he said. “Kabul is never going to control that country. It’s just not going to happen.”
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