tv Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad Testifies on U.S. Policy in Afghanistan CSPAN April 27, 2021 9:00pm-11:13pm EDT
wednesday for the president's 2022 budget request before a house appropriation subcommittee . watch live at 10:00 a.m. on c-span 3, online at c-span.org, or listen live on the free c-span radio app. >> c-spanshop.org is the online sure -- store and every purchase helps support our nonprofit operations. leading up to mother's day, see the newest apparel. you will get a special discount on the purchase. go to c-spanshop.org. >> the senate foreign relations committee held a forum.
made the decision to withdraw from afghanistan, bringing to a close the u.s. military presence in the country. i believe it is the responsibility of this committee to examine the implications of this decision for u.s. national security in the region and what it means for the people of afghanistan. the issues confronting the future of u.s. policy falls in the jurisdiction of this committee and i urge my colleagues to remain focused on afghanistan, especially after the last u.s. service member leaves. the departure of u.s. troops does not mean the end of u.s. engagement. after the departure of the soviets from afghanistan, the international community moved on. afghanistan fell into civil war in the years that followed, and al qaeda and other groups gained traction. addressing these probls
not a priority for the united states and the result was 9/11. i urge the international community not to repeat the mistakes of the past. engagement by the united states will be necessary in the years ahead to ensure our interest are met. i appreciate the desire to get our troops out of afghanistan. that is something i support. but as i have said all along how we withdraw and what political arrangement is left in our wake matters deeply. the messaging from the administration since the announcement has been limited. our troops are leaving at some point before september 11th, i got that. but what is the plan for the path forward? there are two fundamental questions and play. first, can we effectively conduct counterterrorism opportunities without a presence inside afghanistan? the power of terror groups has
eroded significantly the past 20 years but the terrorism landscape is not static. how will we gather intelligence necessary to keep these groups that day? second, do we have leverage to ensure a power-sharing agreement in afghanistan broadly reflects all afghan people including women, youth, and minority groups? the leverage seems limited to me at this point but we must do whatever we can to ensure the afghan government is in the best position possible to succeed in these negotiations. third, given the uncertain security in the country i think we need to consider contingency planning. if the taliban were to come back to power, the reality for afghanistan's women and girls would be devastating. in that regard i want to submit for the record a joint statement from the afghan parliament
standing commission for human rights, civil society and women's affairs in the parliamentary caucus on women's role in the peace process. this purchase continued u.s. diplomatic and support post drawdown of troops and i asked consent that this be included in the record of this hearing. without objection it is so included. on top of the challenge of the reality for afghanistan's women and girls my question is what is the administration's plan to address that? many afghans who work for the u.s. will face pressure and attacks from the taliban. does the administration have a robust special immigrant visa and refugee asylum plan in place to rapidly process what i think maybe thousands of afghans who may need to leave the country? this committee has played a leading role in conducting
oversight with respect to the afghan peace process. i lead a legislative effort to enhance oversight of the peace process, a framework that is now law. the biden administration has blown through certification deadlines and the reporting deadline established under the law. we don't write laws and expect they will be ignored. the february 29th arrangement with the taliban is still the only arrangement on record with this group. it's implementation should still matter, especially in relation to the taliban's counterterrorism commitments. this missing certification and report are necessary for congress to conduct oversight of this issue in the administration needs to deliver them immediately. as the taliban plans strategy with respect to negotiating with the government i want to be crystal clear. i don't believe under any circumstances that the united states senate will support
assistance for afghanistan, especially under the wilbanks program which provides budget support if the taliban has taken a governing role that ends civil society advances and rolls that women's rights. i think the congress is quite clear for the preparations of the systems abroad. i do not believe we will bend on this. i want to personally advocate for the u.n. and u.s. to keep sanctions on the taliban. the choice for the taliban is clear. the only path to legitimacy is through the democratic process and the peace deal that serves the interest of the afghan people. my message to the taliban is this. if you want to play a role in government and avoid international pariah status, seriously pursue a peace deal,
participate in the democratic process, entry women as equal members of society. this is the only way the world will see you as legitimate. in closing, these are very difficult issues and there are no good options. but now that the president has made his decision we need to focus on the implications and chart a path forward that is in our interest. i want the committee to be deeply engaged in that process and i expect consistent and consultation and every step along the way. i recognize the ranking member. >> thank you, mr. chairman. like many others i have deep concerns about the administration's rush for the exit in afghanistan. most everyone agrees we need to seek reasonable and to the war and our troops should come home as quickly as possible. however, a u.s. military drawdown should only occur in a
way that safeguards our national security interests, preserves hard-fought gains, and protect the homeland. i hope i am wrong but i am concerned the administration's decision may result in a taliban offensive that topples the government. it seems most of the people who work in this space think that is where this is headed. it would -- that would eliminate any chance for negotiated peace, playset risk of the rights of women and minorities, and result in a safe haven for terrorists who wish to attack america. i would departure from afghanistan will not improve the conditions on the ground. sobering reality is that the afghanistan-pakistan region remains a dangerous place. despite some argument that the threat is diminished there is consensus that unless we continue to apply pressure to these networks operating we will see a threat against the united states in short order. of the 72 united states
designated global terrorist groups, many are in afghanistan and many have stated their intent to attack americans. we cannot trust the taliban with america's security. worse the counterterrorism plan potentially depends on afghanistan's neighbors who have long history, a long history of harboring the taliban. the only responsible way forward is to maintain an effective counterterrorism capability, insist on conditions of reduction in troops, and demand the taliban's compliance with the counterterrorism framework. in my experience it is clear it is not easy to conduct counterterrorism from a far. we cannot commute to a fight without significantly increasing the risk to our forces. the distances are great. we lose important intelligence
networks and lack suitable agreements in neighboring countries. my fear is afghanistan will become a dangerous blind spot. in addition to counterterrorism concerns the american departure puts afghan women, minorities, and girls under serious threat of losing their hard earned rights. over the last 20 years we have seen remarkable gains in human rights reflected by the dramatic increase of girls in school and women in positions of authority. as we saw during the taliban's in the 1990's and the assassination of women in recent months, we have seen their stance. this must depend on the shape of the government there and their commitment to human rights. the secretary of state announced $300 million in assistance for afghanistan.
these are rightly focused on civil society, anticorruption, women's rights, and economic improvement. i have serious concerns about oversight, any oversight, of these dollars. with the departure of u.s. troops and the potential for afghanistan to descend into violence providing oversight of our investment will be difficult at best. there is also the matter of safeguarding our embassy and diplomats. the state tells us planning is underway and i look forward to those consultations. i remain very skeptical of our security on the ground. to our men and women in uniform, our diplomats, aid workers and nato allies, and other partners, you have borne an enormous weight since the attacks on september 11, 2001. you have nobly served and we owe you and your families an incredible debt of gratitude. thank you. >> thank you, senator risch.
it is the chair's intention to work through these votes. we will rotate out in terms of making sure we are on the floor to cast votes on these nominations. i will turn to the ambassador for his testimony and then we will start the round of five minutes and rotate through whoever hasn't voted. i urge you to consider doing that now so when time comes you are free to cast your questions when your turn is up. with that, ambassador, thank you for being here and we look forward to your comments. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. ranking member and distinguished members of this committee, i am grateful to be here today to discuss america's strategy in afghanistan. as you know president biden has
announced his decision to begin the withdrawal of remaining u.s. forces from afghanistan by may 1st and conclude before september 11th. this decision was reached after extensive review and clear eyed focus on facts on the ground. as the president laid out in his speech april 14th he made that decision based on four judgments. first, ever original objective in afghanistan after 9/11 was to root out al qaeda there. that movement has been significantly degraded and its leader, osama bin laden, brought to justice. second, the world has changed since 2001. the terror threat including from
al qaeda is now geographically dispersed in africa, the middle east, and asia. we now face new urgent challenges as the president has said. we must fight the battles for the next 20 years, not the last 20. continuing with the policy of the past two decades in afghanistan, it is no longer sensible. it would entail high ongoing cost without commensurate outcomes. the agreement in place provided for the u.s. and coalition forces to withdraw by may 1st of this year. four, to reverse course would need to return to war with the taliban. a war that would have continued indefinitely. the same agreement opened the door for inter-afghan
negotiations. this too would have been undermined. to be clear, there was no option to continue the status quo. the president determined that it was not in our national interest to retain u.s. troops in afghanistan. in the coming months we will withdraw our troops responsibly, deliberately, and safely with nato allies and operational partners. we have made it clear to the taliban if they attack us as we draw down, we will defend ourselves forcefully. we will reconfigure our counterterrorism capabilities to ensure our ability to monitor and address terrorism threats emanating from afghanistan. we will maintain assets in the region and will continue to work closely with afghan security forces and regional partners.
we will hold the taliban accountable to their commitments to prevent al qaeda or any other terrorist group from using afghanistan as a base for attacks against us. if the terrorist threat emerges, we will be ready. even as we withdraw our military forces we will continue our diplomatic support for the peace process and urge all party, afghans and international stakeholders, to remain focused on securing a political settlement and permanent cease-fire. it is time for all concerned to abandon -- concern to abandon the behavior that has complicated the pursuit of peace. for our part the united states will support, a continuing partnership with afghanistan and our allies and partners have indicated they will do the same.
with the support of congress our partnership with afghanistan will entail the continuation of substantial civilian and security assistance. our security assistance will primarily support sustainment and functionality of some 300,000 afghan military and police personnel. they are a vital asset for the country and deserve our support. we intend to maintain our embassy and will continue to provide development assistance for more economic investment and advocate to preserve the gains for minority and women, including meaningful participation in the ongoing negotiations and their appropriate representation throughout society. this mission is important to me personally. i was fortunate to play a small role as ambassador to afghanistan in the early 2000's and encouraging the opt
adoption of the rights of women. i fought for the inclusion of women on the islamic republic's negotiating team. they have directly and effectively engaged the taliban at the negotiating table, challenging taliban stereotypes and demonstrating by their presence and skill the important social advances that had taken place in afghanistan since 2001. we are likewise pressing for women's inclusion in any future peace efforts. secretary blinken and i want you to know that i have repeatedly demanded the taliban release of mark ferry. as the taliban seeks to end their chapter of animosity with united states they must know to move forward they cannot
continue to hold an american hostage. let me turn to the effort to reach a political settlement. it has been evident for years there is no military solution to what is now a four year conflict in afghanistan. we have been pursuing intensive diplomacy with both sides to accelerate talks. we have shared proposals to catalyze and advance the process. leaders from across the political spectrum in afghanistan have come together to formulate suggestions in response to that proposal and in preparation for the next phase of the peace process. this is a sign the process is working. we welcome the decision by the united nations to play an enhanced role. along with qatar and the united nations, turkey is ready to host a high level meeting between the
islamic republic and taliban istanbul. the opportunities are in place. the international will to assist is robust and it is now up to afghan, islamic republic leaders, and the taliban to seize the moment. this committee will understand the special role of pakistan. we have urged pakistan's leaders to exercise their leverage of the taliban to reduce violence and support the negotiated settlement. pakistan has publicly stated that they do not support a military takeover by the taliban. i believe they understand their country too will face grave consequences in the event of a return to wider civil war. they have expressed support for peace process in afghanistan. in my discussion with the taliban i have painted the choice between two very
different futures for them. they can embrace negotiated peace, path to peace, make the transition from a violent insurgency to a political movement and joined their fellow afghans in a nation that enjoys respect in the global community. but if they obstruct the negotiated settlement and instead pursue a military takeover, they will be opposed not only by the afghan republic but by the united states, our allies and partners, in the region. they will face isolation, regional opposition, sanctions, and international appropriation. mr. chairman, ranking member, thank you for this opportunity to update you. i want to state in closing that
the united states investment in afghanistan over the past two decades made possible by you and your constituencies has been enormous and honorable. we have given blood and treasure to the efforts to stabilize and develop a society far from our own. not just because terrorists plant 9/11 there -- planned 9/11 there, but because we care about the plight of afghan women and girls, the fledging civil society that has grown powerful and independent, and about peace for millions of families there in cities and villages we now know well. afghanistan has been transformed. we want our investments as sacrifices to have been worthwhile and if we navigate the coming months appropriately, i believe this can happen. in the end however, it will be up to the afghans to seize the
opportunities. our troops deserve to come home and afghanistan deserves a chance to find its own way forward. with help and encouragement from its friends led by the united states. thank you again and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, ambassador. we start the round of five-minute questions. why do you think the taliban has been fighting over the course of the past 20 years? what is their goal? >> they have argued that they are fighting to get the international forces, foreign forces, out of their country and they regard those forces as occupation forces. >> would you agree their vision has been to establish an emirate that would return afghanistan to the brand of governance seen before 9/11? >> that has been their stated
vision but they have also said they have changed since the dark days when they ruled afghanistan in the 1990's. >> but their desire to establish an emirate, if that is the case, what makes us think -- that they will give up from their stated vision and u.s. forces are leaving? do you really think for example the incentives of international legitimacy, lifting of sanctions, international assistance will be all it takes for them to peacefully participate in the democratic process? >> i think those factors they say are important, but more important is that they cannot have peace in the foreseeable future and they will have a long war confronting them because their fellow afghans that
support the republic do not support the restoration of an emirate or the emirate in afghanistan. >> i know their fellow afghans don't but they do and militarily they seem to have already covered a good part of the country. i know there is rising violence and we are far from withdrawal. i am trying to understand why they are suddenly going to change the dynamics of what their stated goal is when they will have less of a consequence to meet the challenge as they tried to pursue that goal. that is one of the challenges i have been trying to understand what we are doing here.
they were required to supply a report on the agreement. in my view they have already violated that by maintaining ties with al qaeda. this was due on april 1st. when will the department submit the report? >> i understand what you're saying mr. chairman. i think your staff in the department are in discussions. i will take this message back to them. i believe work is underway to address your concern. >> i hope it is ambassador. we don't wreck provisions of law to have the be ignored. i helped previous administrations to the same standards as the ranking member. i will hold this administration to the same standard. the purpose of the affirmation is to be able to be informed so members can make decisions on what u.s. policy should be.
i broke this position of the ndaa to gain insight as congress conducts oversight of the agreement. i didn't write the agreement with the expectation the administration would ignore it. i expect them to comply with the law and i hope you will make sure this complaint takes place from your role since they will call upon you for the insight to make that report. do i have your commitment to work to try and get to us sooner rather than later? >> as i said senator, we understand the importance of what you have stated and we are working with your team to respond very quickly. >> let's put it this way. if i don't get the report, there will be no forthcoming from this committee. >> understood. >> that is not how i like to operate but if we are ignored, there has to be consequence. do i have your commitment to brief this committee after the next round of negotiations
between the taliban and afghan government? >> i am always available, senator. i have saw opportunities to brief. when it hasn't happened i have regretted that. thank you, mr. chairman. >> i will take that as yes. >> from my side yes. >> i understand. is the state department going to significantly increase its special immigrant visa spots for >> we understand the importance of this issue. we are working on a plan and we will work with congress to respond to it. i am sure many afghans with skills would like to stay in their country and help the country develop. but we understand our responsibility in this regard and we will consult with you. they plan is being developed. >> i hope the department has a
vigorous special immigrant visa program. i hope they will want to stay in their country as well and contribute to the nation's future, but we don't have a good history of taking care of those who sided with us in conflict, and making sure that if they feel they cannot sustain themselves and their country, or are unwilling to do so, that we take care of them. that sends a global message. don't fight with the americans, because when they are finished, they leave you behind. that's not something we can tolerate. senator. both senator rich and i need to vote. have you voted on this? you have? okay, so, i have, and the order
of who is here, senator kaine is next. >> would you want to go to a republic to alternate? >> >> i can do that, as well. -- >> i can do that, as well. senator romney, then senator kaine. i should be back by then. if not, senator [indiscernible] ambassador, it is a wonderful thing to see you again. i express my deep appreciation's for the effort you have made -- deep appreciations for the effort you have made over the years to bring peace and stability to the nation of afghanistan, to the people and the women there particularly, it is a debt of gratitude our nation owes to you. i am also mindful of the
sacrifice of the sons and daughters who have lost their lives or lost loved ones in the conflict in afghanistan. it breaks my heart to think of the soldiers and the blood that was shed. and yet i recognize that as they carried out their responsibilities to serve our country, and nonetheless, were injured or lost life there, they believe the things were in the best interests of their fellow brothers and sisters across the world, and were in the best interest of the united states of america. and i think it is important that we understand what their sacrifice brought to the people of afghanistan and to the people of the united states of america. i will begin with a question by
asking, are you satisfied with the negotiating process that was carried out between yourself and the taliban? did the agreements reached -- were they honored in large measure, or do you believe we were not dealt with -- they were not dealt with in a fair manner in your negotiations with the taliban? >> thank you very much, senator romney. it is a great pleasure and honor to see you again. under the circumstances, with the desire of the united states to withdraw its forces from afghanistan, the agreement we struck with the taliban was the best possible under the circumstances. and with regard to the implementation of that agreement, i would say the
inter-afghan negotiations, foundational for the future of that country, is one key consequence of that. and those have started. the taliban has agreed not to attack the coalition's forces after the agreement was signed. that has been honored. we have, thank goodness, had no fatalities since the agreement was signed over a year ago. number three, there was an agreement by the taliban not to allow the territory that they control to be used for plotting and planning and carrying out attacks against the united states and its allies. there have been positive
developments, but we are not satisfied. we would like to see more on that. i can discuss that in a different format, in greater detail. but there are other areas in which we were less satisfied, the level of violence has been too high compared to what we expected to happen. so, positive, but also some areas of concern have remained. >> thank you, ambassador. what do you predict? i know you don't want to make a prediction -- but do you predict there will be an agreement reached between the government of afghanistan and the taliban? and stability, or relative stability? or do you instead see an imminent collapse? that as soon as we are gone, the military runs, the government folds, the tele-band take over
and we find ourselves in the same position as the afghanistan we had 20 years ago? what do you see? if there's a different forecast, i'm happy to hear that. >> i don't personally believe that there will be an imminent collapse. i know there are others who have a different view. i believe the choice the afghans face is between negotiated political settlement or a long war. and this is a choice that afghan leaders make for the sake of their current generation, future generations. i hope they learn from the mistakes of the past, such as when the soviets withdrew. other than coming together, agreeing that by force, one party has tried to impose its will on other end has not -- and
has not resulted in stability, progress, that they will come to agreement on a formula where they can compete and cooperate. that opportunity is once again confronting them. it is up to them, the opportunity is there, our support is there, the support of the rest of the international community is largely there. >> chiron, as well. -- iran, as well. >> i am very skeptical on iran on policies, but in the case of afghanistan, since the announcement by the president, they have expressed support for a political settlement. they are opposed to the restoration of the emirates. as is the case with china, russia, pakistan, all the afghanistan neighbors, and of course with our allies. >> thank you, ambassador.
senator? >> we are being very polite to each other on this side. senator kunz was here before i was. he would probably be next. do you agree with me on that? >> thank you, senator. would you please check and see if the senators -- if the senators available online or not -- if the senator is available online or not? senator cardin available? cardin, party of one. thank you for holding this hearing. and to the ambassador for your dedication and engagement on the strategic issue. i am glad this committee is examining the administration's decision to make america's longest war to a responsible
end. i've heard from hundreds of delawarians over the years who want our troops to come home, and i look forward to consulting closely with your admin assertion, members of this committee, allies and partners, and the afghan people to do our best to support the peace process and to find a responsible path forward. as the chair of the appropriations subcommittee that funds a foreign assistance programs, i am concerned about our ability to successfully implement what have been robust assistance programs to support development of the afghan people. particularly if the afghan people do not keep commitments safer made. i will continue to support robust development assistance for the afghan government and the afghan people, but not if there is a takeover by the taliban and they break some basic commitments to respecting the role of women and
fundamental human rights, and democratic process. ambassador, how can we ensure the viability, the success of our ongoing development programs, of our investment in the afghan government/afghan people, and what can this committee and the appropriations committee due to be most relevant and helpful? >> well, thank you very much, senator. i believe that the afghans might be also watching this hearing -- these hearings. the message of commitment to them. a new partnership with them. no direct military presence, but a commitment to them, to develop mental assistance, humanitarian assistance, and even security assistance to the armed forces of afghanistan will
be robust. that's what we would like to have. it depends on the conditions and performance by the afghans. i believe the development assistance they also want from the united states provides us with leverage to intent of eyes -- incentivize. i support that. that would be conditioned based. depending on the afghans would make their own choices and the united states in turn would respond to that and make its decisions. there's no biggie woody -- there's no ambiguity based on the conversations we've had with other afghans as to where we stand, what we would like to see happen. we respect that they will
make their own decisions. i am grateful for what you said, senator. >> i'm interested in hearing from you your assessment of china's interest in afghanistan going forward. we have recently marked up a broadly bipartisan bill about strengthening the united states and our tools and abilities with regards to engaging in the world. part of what informed that debate was a clear idea about china as a competitor and some spheres and a potential partner in others. what do you see as china's core interest in afghanistan? if there is a resurgence of violence in afghanistan, do you see a scenario where the afghan government might request you when peacekeepers -- u.n. peacekeepers? there was a story that beijing was considering sending a peacekeeping force to afghanistan, which surprised me.
if you would answer both those questions, i'd appreciate it. >> one of the realities of the current world is an increasingly assertive china. with regard to afghanistan, the chinese have been satisfied to see us deal with the challenge of afghanistan, the challenge of terrorism in afghanistan. that they also feel threatened by. now, china and other neighbors of afghanistan have to rest of the occasion and encourage political settlement, then provide assistance, develop an assistance -- development assistance for afghanistan, as well. the withdrawal, some in china fear we had a permanent presence
concept for our forces in afghanistan that could threaten their interests. but now of course, there's a change of environment. i hope they rise to the occasion. they have said that a core concern is terrorism from afghanistan. but they have also had some comic interests in the last several years. they have been interested in some of the resources of afghanistan, the mines, to develop those. because of the security environment, those have not really borne out in part. but china's interest, the core number one interest has been the terrorism interest and the economic interests second. >> is there a scenario in which the afghan government would request international peacekeepers? last question. >> instead of a settlement, then one notion is peace
settlements with a third-party enforcer, they tended to last longer. that is a possibility, but as of now, the issue has not come up. we have passed the -- asked the u.n. in facilitating the peace process in afghanistan. >> my understanding is that senator johnston is next. >> mr. ambassador, welcome. in your opening statement, you used the phrase similar to the policy is going to be based on facts on the ground. he also mentioned if the taliban one to move forward -- you also mentioned if the taliban want to move forward, i haven't seen much evidence of the taliban embracing the modern world wanting to move forward. they seem to want to move back. i really fear they are going to move back to how they governed
afghanistan earlier. is there evidence that they truly want to move forward? that they will embrace some movement toward a modern world? >> we will have to see if in practice they will. they say they do. obviously, they have their own values. and they have expressed it. but those values that they speak about, that is present in many countries in the world, and that region and beyond -- in that region and beyond. you see those values differently from place to place. and they say they are interested in not being a pariah and being welcome. and we will have to see. all i can say is that we've made it clear that if they do, there
can be progress and relationship with us and with others, but if they don't, the very thing that they say they do not want to happen will be inevitable. >> i think all of our concern is, we've seen in the past how they practice or values in an incredibly brutal fashion. i don't want to preempt any questions here, but in our secure briefing, a classified document essentially predicted what's going to happen to the women and girls in afghanistan. your office also said in your testimony if the taliban behave in a certain way, then we will hold my cannibal. the two questions i -- hold them accountable. the two questions i have, what do you say publicly in terms of what the predictions are, in terms of the taliban treatment of women should they take over the government again?
i'm concerned about public as a houston and other forms of brutality that will just be so incredibly offensive, and if that's the case, what do we do? are we going to sit back and just watch that? mourn the fact that we've made so much progress? and by the way, america and allies have to take pride in the progress that was made. that's probably our biggest concern here, is having all that progress be for naught. the question is, what were the predictions? how would we hold them accountable? >> thank you very much, senator. i share those concerns. i have been grateful to the senator for always raising them. we've been married for love that -- very mindful of that and very proud of the developments
that have occurred thanks to american generosity and american support. but, of course, war is a terrible thing. there have been some setbacks in afghanistan with regard to values, because of the ongoing war. and some schools have been closed because of security environments. mothers are not sending their kids to school. sometimes, even some senior members of the afghani send their two kids on alternate days to school, because they worry they might lose both kids in one incident. there's a yearning for peace for ending the war that is there, but there's also the concern about the taliban, given their past record.
we have said that if they do want u.s. assistance, they want international acceptance, they want to end their prior status, those things will be all affected by how they treat their own citizens, first and foremost, the women of afghanistan, the children and minorities. the issue is, should we use the u.s. troops to enforce particular values, especially in a situation where we have been there for 20 years? in a war for which there is a military solution. we have other instruments that will remain relevant and powerful, in my view, that we would have to rely on to send the message loud and clear, like you and other senators have made today. >> thank you. hopefully the senator can maybe
give more detail. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. i understand senator cardin is not with us at this moment. >> i'm with you. >> okay. this is a virtual world. senator cardin. >> thank you, mr. chairman. first, let me thank our witness for his incredible service to our country. i think we all agree. there's always a solution here and there's no good option. so i've heard you testify as to the fact that if afghanistan, with or without the taliban, wants to be a country that is respected globally, then they are going to have to live up to their antiterrorism commitment. i want to seek your advice. that is a lot easier said then done. -- said than done.
and i mean taking action against the government when it violates norms on any terrorism or human rights. terrorism is easy for us to define. what advice would you give us to have the strong as possible position to enforce the strongest possible position to enforce governance on afghanistan? -- what advice would you give us to enforce the strongest possible position to enforce governance on afghanistan? to make sure the country doesn't move in the wrong direction. what advice would you give to the united states senate or to congress, in order to maximize the leverage that whatever happens with the withdrawal of our troops, that we are in the strong as possible position to encourage the government of afghanistan to live up to its commitments on human rights? >> thank you very much, senator.
i think the key instruments to rely on for incentivizing compliance to the commitments that the afghan government or the taliban, as part of a future government, that they remain committed to that, is to first make assistance conditional. on compliance, on progress, in dealing with the problems of human right, with issues of governance. and to -- >> we can do that. the challenge is, it gets involved in the discussions on cooperation. the commitment to human rights
sometimes gets pushed to the back burner. is there a way that we can be clear as to the importance of the protection of women and girls and other human rights issues? >> of course, clear statements are important. the challenge is of checks and balances. discussions that occur along many fronts, that ultimately shape our policy. i would believe that going forward, the two issues that will remain paramount in our policy regarding afghanistan would be the issue of threats from afghanistan, we want compliance in dealing with that, and on human rights and development issues. so we need to make it clear that
both are important. and that with regard to incentivizing cooperation on terrorism and security forces come afghanistan will remain important, but also demonstrating -- security forces, afghanistan will remain important, but also demonstrating the capability that we can take action if necessary. with regard to the other part of the agenda, i think conditionality and advocacy on behalf of those conditionalities will remain important. i know the administration -- i've personally made it very clear the issue of human rights, particularly women's rights, is second to terrorism in terms of the hierarchy of u.s. policy importance. we need to continue to do that. but i don't have a fix for the checks and balances in the process of negotiation they
place, when decisions are made. i would say that what you're saying will remain important, advocacy on behalf of human rights. >> we will continue to speak up. but i would just point out, mr. chairman, it may be important for us to give direct directive to the administration with regards to these issues. it may be necessary for congressional action to make it clear to the afghan government that if there is backsliding, the administration is not going to be able to save that in negotiations that congress is going to demand that action be taken to protect the rights of women and girls and to protect human rights for the people of afghanistan. we will be clear. but i am concerned about what happens in the diplomatic table at times. this is an area that's just too important for us.
>> thank you. >> thank you. i would certainly agree with our distinguished colored. we need to be very clear on the ministry -- with our distant wish to colleague. we need to be very clear with the administration. to tell them we really mean it to the administration. along those lines, mr. ambassador, you talked about your work in getting the constitutional rights for women in the afghan constitution, if indeed some of the predictions that have been made, it seems like the majority of predictions, it's clearly a matter of months before the taliban retake the entire afghan government. what is your -- what is your view of the [indiscernible] what is your view of the
likelihood? [indiscernible] what is your view of the -- of those rights that are in the constitution is women's rights? it's staying in place, what is the likelihood of that happening? >> thank you, senator. when you were out of the room, i associated myself personally that i do not believe that the government is going to collapse in the telemedicine going to take over. >> i understand that is your view. >> i think we should be concerned that those rights could suffer. and we would have to then use diplomatic engagement, if there is a government dominated by the taliban, a recognition of normal
relationship in dealing/ providing assistance, diplomat support for the concern that they would have not available if they didn't respect the rights of afghan women and other citizens of afghanistan. that would be the instrument that we would have to rely on. but i share the concern that -- i think that only i share it, but the administration a whole is concerned. we would do whatever we could to shape taliban actions. -- the administration as a whole is concerned. we would do whatever we could to shape taliban actions and respond to what they do. >> to be clear, i hope you're right. that is that the administration can take on afghanistan. but there a very substantial
amount of people who think that is not going to happen. even the most optimistic think it will only be a matter of months. you would agree that if that happens," such and all rights that you worked to get into the constitution -- those constitutional rights that you worked to get into the constitution are in all likelihood in jeopardy since the taliban do not share the same view on that issue. my right on that? -- am i right on that? >> have concern about that, yes. >> thank you. again, not wanting to be too pessimistic, but realistic, if collapse does happen within a matter of months, if it starts looking like that very quickly, do you agree we ought to hold up on the $300 million that we've talked about, as additional assistance to afghanistan? and to be more cautious as far as disturbing that at this point? >> like we have said repeatedly, our actions will depend on the
actions of the afghan government. certainly, our assistance will be conditional on what they do. >> that is certainly the case. i guess i'm talking about the interim right now. when we are in this state of flux. we are moving out, and the taliban are telegraphing to some people they are moving in. it seems to be we would be better off holding onto her $300 million right now until we see exactly which way it's going. >> but the announcement of the release of the $300 million that we had withheld was to demonstrate to the afghan government that we are in support of the government. and in support of afghan women and civil society. at this time of transition, where our military role will change and the military presence will end, that we are committed
to a positive engagement with the current government. it doesn't say anything about the future government. there will be speculation dominated by that. that case, we will have to review. >> it seems to me that simply by handing over the $300 million and demonstrating that we support the correct government help them hang on in the face of the telemann. -- the taliban. thank you, senator murphy. >> thank you. my sense is, others would likely agree that both president and president trump's instinct was likely to end the war on afghanistan, focus resources on other places, admit that it was not likely that during their administration, our goals of political and military stability
were going to be met. there were convinced otherwise pay would ultimately in part by military leadership that put on a very impressive presentation about what could happen if we stayed another year or two. i know those presentations are impressive. because i've watched probably a dozen of them. every time i want to afghanistan, he knew impressive, highly -- a new impressive highly credentialed general would expect to me how the next year would be different than the prior year. i think president biden came to the conclusion as he said in his remarks that we are at a point where we have to accept the facts on the ground rather than the fallacy of endless powerpoint presentations that we are moving backwards, not forward. that the security situation is getting worse, not better. and so, have one additional question. -- and so, i have one additional question. just to speak for a moment about
what it would look like if we stayed for another year at our current levels, and why the team has come to the conclusion that it's likely the trajectory would continue that the security situation would continue to degrade, the taliban would continue to advance. i think the conclusion was made that one more year or two more years wasn't going to change the trajectory. i'm i wrong about that? dash cam i wrong about that -- am i wrong about that? >> one, if we did stay another year or two, or indefinitely, we would be back at war with the talibs. for the last 13 months or so, we
have not had any fatalities, because one consequent of the agreement was for them not to attack coalition forces. the we had the right to come to the defense of the afghan forces in the agreement when they were attacked. if we said we are staying, getting out of that agreement, it means we would be back at war with them. there could have been potentially demand for more forces to be able to maintain the status quo. not to lose a significant ground. but two, the military balance was changing territorially, negatively for the past several years. things were not standing still
in the configuration that we have been in for the last several years. there was no military solution. i think that was a judgment for some years. the decision to pursue the political settlement, i think several presidents had that in mind. of course we know what president biden decided. >> their capabilities, especially on the military side, that we have been midwifing for 20 years, i remember going in my house days, hearing about the desire to have the afghan air force be able to provide their own close air supports, so they wouldn't be reliant on us, we have made very little progress on those give abilities, including that one, they are still relying on us to provide that support for counterterrorism missions. is it your assessment that some of these security capabilities
are unable to be possessed by the afghan military? or is it that they were conveniently able to rely on us for the last 20 years? and so they didn't have to do the difficult work of constructing their own security capacities? >> first, the afghan security forces have developed significantly. i was ambassador, special envoy since 2005, and really nothing existed. now we are talking about the capabilities of the forces that exist. they are very capable special forces. perhaps as high as 40,000. the air force is dependent on us for maintenance and even some big operations.
it's been effective in many operations. it's used to compensate for some of the challenges in other areas. and we are working with them to make sure that as we withdraw, have access to others that can provide those services for them. i think we need to continue to invest in those security forces, to assist them. we are committed to doing that. but we will have to make arrangements where we used to do it, now they have to do it. i believe that sometimes, some of our analysts, and the worst-case circumstances, there are challenges we confront, but it be a mistake in my judgment to dismiss the afghan security forces as not being a credible force that could perform well,
although they will face more difficult circumstances now. >> we hope you are right in your relative optimism. thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i appreciate the testimony today. ambassador. full support it look, your service over the years. -- most importantly, your service over the years. many years devoted to a peaceful resolution in afghanistan . i understand you're supporting the administer ration today with good feelings given what you've been through. -- the administration today with good feelings, given what you've been through. how many troops are in afghanistan? >> slightly above 2500, i understand. >> many troops are in kuwait --
how many troops are in kuwait? >> i don't know that. >> 13,500. how about qatar? 8000. bahrain, 5000. are the majority of american troops and if denniston? >> no. -- in afghanistan? >> no. >> it is important to understand what we're talking about. how many casualties have there been of american troops in the past year? >> no fatalities, but some casualties. but not very many. >> yeah. i think we need to set that. this is a very difficult question. i don't envy you are others who have to make decisions. but i am very concerned that we are pulling out not because of any conditions having been met, but just choosing an arbitrary date, which gives the taliban german this leverage. i think it unravels. -- the taliban tremendous leverage. i think it unravels.
i've been there. i think almost all members happy but i'v. have. -- i think all member's have. we have been given an opportunity -- i think all members have. we have been given an opportunity. we spent millions of dollars over the past two decades and a lot of work to ensure that a telemann takeover, which -- a taliban takeover, which to me seems likely at some point, you know you are very proud of the progress, are going to be reversed. do you disagree with that? >> i want to make one comment, senator, which is, the reason
that the casualties [indiscernible] and no fatalities is because of the agreement that we have had with a taliban which requires us to withdraw altogether. answer -- and without that agreement, we would go back to war. that is the alternative. >> if i could, let me talk about that for a second mr. ambassador -- for a second, mr. ambassador. that is the february 2020 agreement you were talking about. -- you are talking about. from the dia, to the treasury, to the united nations team, al qaeda members are integrated into the taliban forces. the taliban is creating a safe haven. would you disagree with those?
>> it is our judgment, and i could go on to -- go into details, that the taliban have taken several positive steps, as i mentioned before, with regard to terrorism, the commitment not to allow training or fundraising or recruitment by these terrorist groups that would threaten the u.s. or our allies. that they've taken several positive steps. but -- >> the evidence is clear they haven't kept their part of the agreement. when we talk about the agreement, i just worry it becomes a safe haven for terrorists again. this is not easy stuff. i'm very concerned. i again, i've been there, i've had troops from ohio, troops that have had injuries in afghanistan.
i know there have been casualties. and they have been fatalities -- and there have been fatalities. not providing any sense of continued support for the intelligence community to be able to keep us safe from what happened on 9/11 concerns me a lot. thank you for your service. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator. i will turn to senator booker, who was with us virtually -- is with us virtually, i understand. senator booker? >> i'm here, thank you very much, mr. chairman. i really appreciate it. i appreciate this conversation. i want to reiterate the concerns that have been expressed about human rights. and the challenge that we will
be facing -- that will be facing afghan women after this. in the meantime, i'd like to get a little bit deeper from our witness. i would like to appreciate our witness' service to our country. can you give us the posture on our allies in this effort and who will share some of the burden with us in the days after our withdrawal? what our position and focus will be as well? >> thank you very much, senator. as it was stated right now, our allies have more forces in afghanistan then we do. -- than we do. our allies share values with us. we are in agreement of the condemned -- on the conditionality of assistance going forward.
if afghanistan does not honor commitments, they cannot count on assistance from our allies. and of course, we speak for ourselves and the united states. so we have a very strong group, u.s. and european allies. we had a meeting virtually a couple of days ago, going over where we are and what do we do next? the concern is shared with regard to human rights, between us and our allies. >> i appreciate the human rights concern. i want to turn a little bit to the concerns i have on our counterterrorism joint efforts. perhaps you can talk to me about how credible you believe right now the taliban assurances are on not allowing al qaeda to operate anywhere in the areas to controls. it's one of the previous
concerns about the infiltration of al qaeda. i'm wondering, how credible do you think the assurances are in terms of their operations? again, as was mentioned earlier, we have no agreements in central asia, in light of russia's sort of cultural/historical ties to the region, it brings up concerns, and how difficult it will be for the u.s. to operate in the region and counter those threats that might occur, from a number of other terrorist organizations in the region. >> as you've heard from the intelligence community, there will be some degradation, in terms of our ability to know exactly what's going on. we don't have a physical military presence associated with other agencies there. but, we believe, given the
nature of the threat right now, with the efforts underway over the horizon, to monitor, that we would get adequate warning. that is outside my domain. you should ask the intelligence committee. but that we would get adequate warning to be able to respond, and part of that effort right now is to not only have capabilities in place, to the best level possible, given that we wouldn't be in afghanistan itself, that we will have the capabilities in the region now, for the near future, largely in the gulf, but perhaps beyond that area, too, to respond in a
timely manner. having those structures in place would be important also to send the message that there will be consequences, if afghans allow the threat to reemerge or grow. >> i know that there's been sort of a decrease in the cultivation and production of afghanistan's illicit drug economy. it remains a significant driver in the region. and has for decades. i'm wondering what plans did ministration has to address the afghan drug trade -- the administration has to address the afghan drug trade. >> we have been very focused on this challenge, as you said, sender, for some time -- senator, for some time. unfortunately, the results have
not been commensurate with the level of efforts that have been made. challenges remain. there's focus on this issue not only by us, but by our allies and neighbors. it will be important. as long as there's demand, unfortunately, supply will come from someplace. and right now, it is focused significantly in afghanistan. but law enforcement, eradication, all of these compressive strategies that we've been supporting, i believe will continue to focus on this challenge. >> want to thank you again for your service to our country and appreciate the opportunity to have this conversation with you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator. and happy birthday to her colleague from new jersey. >> thank you.
>> next is stender haggerty. >> thank you very much. senator booker, happy birthday to you as well. ambassador, good to see you again. i'd like to go to an area that definitely is in your wheelhouse. i'd like to put it into context as to what the biden administration has recently announced. earlier this month, the administration announced it's going to withdraw u.s. troops, as well as nato forces there in afghanistan, and at the same time, the ministry should have said that it will continue to promote efforts -- the administration has said that it will continue to promote diplomatic efforts in afghanistan. they announced they will be drawing down the diplomatic were in kabul -- were in kabul -- war in kabul. to what extent do we depend on
u.s. and nato forces today for diploma to get efforts? to what if any extent do you think those people medical efforts will be constrained by the removal of those forces? >> thank you very much, senator. of course, we are committed to the administration's maintaining strong diplomatic presence. we will take the necessary measures to protect the embassy. with regard to the announcement, the ealk that happened -- the leak that happens, there will be a small number of diplomats rightsizing the embassy. those not necessary to be there can do their job from elsewhere. that will happen, but it will not affect operation or the capabilities of the embassy.
we are very much committed to that. as to the negotiations, well, we had already agreed, as part of the agreement with the taliban, to withdraw forces, as part of a commitment they made on terrorism, the commitments to start enter afghan negotiations -- inter-afghan negotiations. that the military, if we had not withdrawn, would have implied undermining diplomacy in terms of the peace negotiations that started based on the agreement to withdraw. and it would've increased the violence in afghanistan, in direct war with the taliban, perhaps necessitating that we send more troops.
while believing that there is a military solution. so it was an indefinite work. i think that the alternatives were difficult ones. i think after a lot of assessment and discussion, the president decided what he did, to go with a kinder withdrawal, rather than condition-based withdrawal. >> this underscores my concern that our diploma to efforts be effective, i hope you will continue to monitor the situation closely. i know you will have a great deal results ability here. thank you for your service, but i also encourage you to consider a detailed plan as things on the ground will change significantly, as we draw down our forces. thank you. >> thank you, senator. >> thank you. senator kaine.
>> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, ambassador. the question we are grappling within in this committee and other committees is not whether the u.s. will seek being a partner with afghanistan. obviously we will continue security assistance, we will continue diplomatic assistance, we will continue development assistance, humanitarian assistance, trade would be my hope, to work with regional partners, but the question that we are grappling with is whether we should start a third decade of combat operations in afghanistan with u.s. troops. there are a lot of different possibilities for when the u.s. seeks to stop military operations in afghanistan. and all have some legitimate chance of coming to pass. some believe the taliban will take over afghanistan. some believe afghans having seen 20 years of improved life expectancy, electricity deployment, public health,
education will decide they want to fight to maintain that. some believe it could continue to be sort of a frozen conflict without a clear winner. there could be a peace negotiation that might produce any range of outcomes. i support president biden's decision. i think the consequences and possibilities i just put on the table are not after 20 years of u.s. military. we spent 10 years -- i think those decisions are going to be made by afghans with the u.s. as a continued partner. what i would like to ask you about, mr. ambassador, is the region. afghanistan's bordered by six countries. china, iran, pakistan, then
three countries, six nations around afghanistan, those nations are very different from one another. in some, we have close relationships, in some we don't. i my -- am i right in basically assuming that each for their own reasons, they desire a stable afghanistan and they would view instability in afghanistan becoming a haven for terrorists? is that fair to say? >> thank you, senator. you've painted a good picture of the future for afghanistan. with regard to the question, i believe that while we have been there, they have looked to us to solve their problem, the problem in their neighborhoods, so to speak.
our hope and expectation is that they will rise to the occasion, as a stable afghanistan. there's an agreement among afghans that no single you limit -- no single element can dominate the country and create stability. that's the last 40 years. that's what demonstrates that, the efforts by the communists in the 1980's to enforce their will, than the efforts by various -- then the efforts by various groups to produce another war. what lessons have these leaders learned? the region also has to rest of the occasion. because sometimes afghanistan's war has been a proxy war of neighbors supporting different elements. but afghanistan becoming stable is an opportunity for the region, for central asians to be
able to export their products or import, for trade. it is the vision that we share and support, increased trade, increased connectivity, increased integration on the economic front. so they have their own moment of big decision of choice. but we are working with them. and i believe that it's consensus that the taliban taking over afghanistan is not in anyone's interest, because that would mean continuing war, and other threats that that could produce for them, refugees, as you mentioned. so we're working closely with those that we can. we don't have the best relationships with some of them. but i think this is a defining moment, not only for afghans to rest of the occasion, but for the region as well. >> i think the region has benefited tremendously at the american taxpayer's expense, in
terms of the degree of stability with been able to bring. they have much more existentially at stake than the u.s. does. like you, we hope they recognize dad and step up. thank you, ambassador. >> is senator young with us virtually? senator young? since you were appointed, i have repeatedly raised concerns about the inclusion of women in the piece process and the preservation of women's rights. i appreciated your acknowledging that and your comments today. under the previous administration, these concerns seemed to fall on deaf ears.
i'm disappointed to say that my concerns have not been addressed. i did not appreciate you referring to commits -- rights of women in your opening statement, and i appreciate the fact that the chair and ranking member and my colleagues on this committee republican and democrat have almost all raise concerns about what is going to happen. what i want to do is put a face on what we are talking about in afghanistan. when you say the level of violence is too high, i want to put a face on that. when you say what taliban values look like, i want to put a face on that. last month, the state department honored seven women who were killed in 2020.
these women were given the department of state's international women of courage award. they are pictured here. they were murdered for choosing to live their lives outside of the narrow confines of what the taliban and other extremist groups deem acceptable for women. i'd like to enter for the record the state department's statement on these women and what they devoted their lives to. >> without objection, they shall be included. >> i also want to highlight them. they reflect thousands of women in afghanistan who have been the targets of violence. we can call them courageous, and we do, but they should not have to be courageous to do what they tried to do. it should not require courage to be a journalist.
it should not require courage to stand up for basic human rights. two of them are at the top there. all of those women were killed by the taliban, and unfortunately, that is exactly what is required of women in afghanistan today. i worry this reality is only going to escalate after our departure. i hope everyone watching this hearing today will remember these women, remember these seven women and the women like them. remember the girls in afghanistan, the girls who should have the opportunity to grow up in a world with the freedom that their mothers fought to secure. they are watching, and we should be watching.
i wanted to acknowledge the other women who are pictured here. in the middle is fatima. she was a 23-year-old prison guard on her way home on a civilian bus stop by the taliban . she was kidnapped, tortured, murdered, and two weeks later, her body was sent to her family. at the bottom, she was a 35-year-old prison guard who was killed on her way to a taxi to get to work again by gunmen. at the bottom is the head of the
gender unit at the national directorate of security and one of the longest serving female nds officers in afghanistan. she was assassinated in an explosion targeting her vehicle in kabul. finally for me, the most horrific is miriam in the corner. miriam was a midwife. she was killed when the hospital in kabul where she was helping a woman trying to deliver a baby was attacked by three taliban gunmen. they not only killed her when she refused to leave the woman delivering her baby. they killed the woman, and they killed the baby.
these are the taliban who we are being asked to join at the negotiating table to support. i will not support any efforts that will allow them to continue to commit these horrific acts without any accountability for their behavior. what we do over the next four months is going to impact the lives of women for generations to come, and i believe we have to do everything in our power to support the women of afghanistan. we have worked for two decades alongside our allies to advance the rights of not just women and girls, but other ethnic minorities in afghanistan, and we cannot let those decades of hard work be ignored in peace talks. we owe it to the women and girls
to ensure that their hard-fought rights are preserved. sadly, i believe an arbitrary deadline for withdrawal forces -- for our forces in afghanistan risks those efforts. these seven women did not deserve to die, and we owe it to them and to the generations that will come after them to do everything to prevent any more afghan women from the same fate. as we've heard, this is not a partisan issue. it is not a women's issue. it is a human rights issue, and it's a security issue for the future of afghanistan. i want to point, mr. chairman, and ask that this be introduced for the record. this is a newly declassified national intelligence council report on the fate of women in
afghanistan after we withdraw. >> without objection, it shall be included. >> a few things stood out for me. >> i would just say the senator's time -- >> my time is over. i want to give her extra time because i want to recognize there are other members. >> i am almost finished, mr. chairman. what stood out in this report is that when the international community pushes for women's rights and pushes for women's rights in afghanistan, we saw that it made a difference. i believe we've got to keep up this effort after the united states withdraws. i would urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that women are represented at the table, and their rights are preserved in any future afghanistan. thank you very much, mr.
chairman. >> thank you for being a conscience of this committee and the senate on the rights and future of women in afghanistan. we appreciate it. i understand senator young is with us on virtual. >> yes, sir. >> please, five minutes. >> welcome, ambassador to the committee. thank you for your years of service. we spent over two decades in afghanistan. have we achieved our core national security objectives in afghanistan? >> as the president said, senator, we went to afghanistan to root out al qaeda, which was responsible for 9/11 attacks and the planning that happened in afghanistan, and now, we believe
that objective has been achieved. al qaeda has been degraded significantly in afghanistan, and the problem of terrorism has become more diffused, including al qaeda. we need to posture ourselves to be able to deal with that thread differently than we have done in the past 20 years in afghanistan. >> over a two decade period, as someone who was a former military intelligence officer, it does not surprise me to know that the threat profile, the threat of terrorist activity, the threat to the homeland has shifted. not just informed, not just in terms of its level and nature, but geographically, it has
shifted, as well. is that accurate? that is accurate. >> did that in form this decision? >> the president made that clear. >> was it assessed that as we look beyond the summer and into future years that there would be a spike in violence targeting our forces, other american personnel in the country of afghanistan if we stayed? >> yes, the assessment was if we stayed post-may 1, based on the agreement that the taliban and us had a, they wouldn't attack us during this period, and we
would be back at war likely with the taliban. >> this is the decision, whether or not we go back to war. i want my constituents to know the underlying factors that went into this decision. implicit in this withdrawal is a recognition that the afghan national security forces will soon be operating without the backstop of u.s. technical assistance and support, but will the administration requested that congress provide substantial financial or material assistance to afghan forces? >> yes, we will. >> will those funds be able to be used to pay for americans or foreign contractors? >> the issue of u.s. contractors staying, that is not part of the
agreement that contractors could stay. the contractors are also leaving , but the afghans are looking for others to be able to provide that service to them. we are obviously very sympathetic to them to find alternatives for the needs they have in terms of maintenance. >> last week, we were told conducting -- it would be difficult to do, but not impossible.
he additionally commented that gathering intelligence would decline. he knowledge that reality, but indicated the united states would continue to look into afghanistan. the comments support the cia director previous warnings. what is your assessment of this challenge, and how can we support the afghan national security forces to manage these threats? >> we will continue to have a relationship with the afghan security forces. we have a shared concern in that regard. we believe the afghan national security forces are a national asset for the country. therefore, it's worth supported -- supporting. we obviously will have a
presence in the neighborhood, the region, that will compensate , not completely, but compensate for the departure of u.s. forces in terms of assistance that the presence provided for intelligence capabilities to monitor. there would be some diminution without the presence. the threat is also less than it was at times in the past, and it's the agenda of our president, the leadership, yes, there will be challenges in terms of collection of intelligence and responding, but given the gains that we've made from withdrawal, given the nature of the threat, that is on
balance the right strategy. if you look at it in its totality of pluses and minuses, being there in an open ended war without any prospects for success, given that we believe there is no military solution, so on balance, it is not ideal, but it is better than the alternative of an open ended war. >> thank you, mr. ambassador. >> senator van hollen? >> ambassador, thank you for your long and good service to our country. as you've said and others, and no one knows what the future holds in afghanistan. you've said rightly that the future depends on choices made
by the people of afghanistan, including the taliban. we clearly have limited leverage with respect to those choices being made, but we are not without tools. you've mentioned security assistance, development assistance, other economic engagement on a conditions-based basis, including some of the issues senator shaheen raised, women's rights, political process. another tool many of us have proposed over the years is increasing the amount of trade that could take place between afghanistan and parts of pakistan in the united states. years ago when the house passed the reconstruction opportunity zone legislation, that would allow a limited segment of goods from afghanistan and parts of pakistan to come to the united
states duty-free. we will be introducing that as a bipartisan bill soon. is that a useful tool in shaping decisions that will be made? the president of the united states would have the authority to calibrate it based on conditions on the ground. what do you think of providing that kind of tool going forward? >> thank you very much, senator. i share senator shaheen's concerns about -- i did not get a chance to comment on her presentation or statement that i shared those concerns. with regard to what you said, senator van hollen, we support the idea of increased trade
between afghanistan and pakistan and central asia, and we support increased trade between us and afghanistan and pakistan. i look forward to a detailed discussion of the proposal you referred to. it seems to me it was a worthwhile concept to explore, and i look forward to a detailed discussion. >> i look forward to working with the chairman. i guess this will go to the finance committee, as much as i'd like it to come to this committee, but i look forward to working with you. i know other parts of the administration are taking a look at it as a positive tool that we can deploy in trying to shape the future of this region. there are lots of countries that neighbor afghanistan, but the one that has the most direct
potential influence here is pakistan, as you've said. pakistan has an interest in stability in afghanistan. if you see chaos and war erupting, you have refugees coming. you have pointed out in your public comments that the government of pakistan has helped to facilitate your negotiations with the taliban indo hall. how would -- in doha. how would you categorize the support of the effort with the government of pakistan now? >> phase been supportive of our effort to press the taliban to
reduce violence, to enter negotiations with the government of afghanistan, to be an active participant in peace negotiations, including istanbul, turkey, the conference that the turks have had in cooperation with the u.n. pakistan has a special responsibility given its influence over the taliban. we appreciate what pakistan has done so far, but we are not there yet. we look forward to working with them to get them to a peace agreement between the taliban and afghan government in the coming weeks and months. >> i think it is important to continue to pressure the government of pakistan to be a constructive player in this.
i think you would agree that after the soviets left afghanistan, after the government of pakistan and others supported our efforts against the soviet invasion of afghanistan, the united states disengaged from the region, and what was left was a vacuum that the taliban filled and al qaeda took advantage of. i hope as we withdraw our forces, which i support and understand, we remain engaged. i hope president biden will call the prime minister. my understanding is that phone call has not been made. it seems to me if we are going to ask and rely on pakistan to be a player that the dialogue should happen as soon as possible. >> the dialogue with pakistan is
important. i agree. >> i just wanted to check -- are there any republican members of the committee seeking recognition? i understand senator schatz is with us virtually. >> we've got 2500 troops, 450 u.s. government staff. i want to talk about the footprint of united states citizens. we've got a total of 17,000 u.s. employed contractors. can you talk to me about what we need to do to protect everyone else? the 2500 withdrawn is the headline maker, but what is the presence going to be like?
>> i believe there would be a corresponding reduction in the number of contractors, as well. >> who drives that decision, and can you give us a better fidelity on what that is going to look like? >> the withdrawal of contractors who supported the afghan security forces as part of the agreement we have with the taliban, so that reduction has been there since we signed the agreement last year. >> so we've got 6150 u.s. nationals. should we expect a drawdown, and if so, what period of time?
>> as far as diplomats are concerned, people working for the embassy, including protecting the embassy, that is one category. we will maintain a strong embassy presence. if your question is with regard to contractors that service the afghan security forces as part of the agreement, they will draw down as the military forces do. >> at the same pace? >> their numbers are larger, but yes, in terms of the contractors. they will be out as security forces are out. those who provide services for security forces, the 2500 or so
that remain. >> i am going to submit that for the record so we can get precision. >> if you have more specific questions, we will get back to you. i >> want to talk about divesting equipment -- i want to talk about divesting equipment. we've got the world food program, who, and a lot of them have stuff they are going to be leaving behind. i understand we want to sell a lot of the equipment, but we have a lot of good ngo partners on the ground. i'm wondering if there is any plan to give these ngo's access to noncombat equipment so they can use it to support our work in delivering development and aid for the afghan people. >> i will take that question for the record since it involves various injuries, if you do not
mind. >> can you talk to me about how we are working with the u.n. and our european partners and the neighbors in the region to prepare for a possible refugee problem or crisis? >> we are working ourselves to develop humanitarian plans for possible increase in the number of afghan refugees, and we are also working interagency and with partners. i can take that question for the record, too. we don't have a finalized plan, but we will make sure to provide an update as to where we are. >> we need to know what the resource requirements are for this and others. >> i understand. >> thank you.
i understand there are no other colleagues seeking recognition, so i have final questions. ambassador, you refer to the reduction at the embassy in kabul as rightsizing. rightsizing suggests since we are changing our mission, we are bringing it to a different size. it's my understanding that the reduction at the embassy is because of increased violence in kabul. is that correct? >> having been a chief of mission myself, the ambassador, depending on his needs and the circumstances, the country requests adjustments, and i believe we made requests taking
these factors into account. it's a small number. >> taking into account all of these things including increased violence? >> that must've been one of them. >> it will be interesting to find out why we are at this particular time rather than reducing mission, because we have not reduced troops yet. it is compelling to understand why so we therefore can deduce other elements. let me ask you. how many afghan security forces are there today? >> as i said in my testimony, i think it is about 300,000. >> we've trained over 600,000, right? >> probably. it's a voluntary force. some leave.
i don't know for sure that the number is 600,000, but substantially more than 300,000. >> how many taliban fighters do we estimate exist? >> that estimate has changed over time. inadvertently, i don't want to say the number i've gotten. i can disclose in another setting. it's less than 100,000. >> there are published reports that there are somewhere around 80,000. we have 300,000 afghan security forces up against 80,000 taliban forces. with most of those security forces largely within the kabul area and in some provincial capitals. one has to wonder for lessons for the future, what is it we have done that 300,000 versus
80,000, which is almost a four to one ratio, still leaves us at risk that the taliban can overrun the country? it is a serious question as we look at not only afghanistan, but also as we think about our engagement anywhere in the future. the question was raised about their air force abilities, which are hindered because we have not helped them fly to fly -- helped them to fly fully on their own. that means every time we roll out of the place, if we cannot have a standing army of the nation be able to sustain its own future and security, i am not sure what we've accomplished after so much national treasure.
>> senator, you raise an important question, and that is why i am myself personally am not as pessimistic as some others are, but i think the broader question is what lessons have been learned from the way that the afghan forces were created, trained, equipped, maintained. those are important lessons to be learned. >> i hope that your optimism is rewarded, and a future hearing, we will be looking at the afghan security forces able to sustain the nation and create a chance for a pathway to a diplomatic solution. i fear that at some point in the future we may be having a hearing that that is not the
ultimate reality, and we will have some decisions to make. who is leading contingency planning within the united states government, particularly at the state department, in the event that afghanistan implodes into a civil war? the taliban takes over, there is a humanitarian crisis. i think it is fair to say that being prepared for any of those eventualities, while we hope none of them comes to pass, it would be a smart thing to do. >> i think it would be both smart and prudent. of course, the national security council leads the inter-agency process, and we will take your message back that there needs to be a lead person as your concern
. >> i appreciate that the nsc plays that role. i'm not sure they are in this case. i'm not sure anyone at this moment is. my point is we should start that process of creating those abilities to know the contingencies so that we are able to respond in real time versus scratching our head and thinking, what do we do now? >> and hopefully to preclude them to the maximum extent possible. >> i agree. with the thinks of the committee for your long service and particular knowledge, the hearing record will remain open until the close of business tomorrow. this hearing is adjourned.
every day we are taking your calls live on the air on the news of the day and discussing policy issues that impact you. wednesday morning, demand justice co-founder details progressive initiatives to expand the size of the supreme court. then mike davis, founder and president of the article three project, talks about efforts to expose expanding the court. and lori robinson on plans by states and localities to change policing practices. c-span's washington journal, live at 7:00 a.m. eastern wednesday morning. and be sure to watch washington journal saturday morning at 8:00 a.m. eastern for a live study session for high school students preparing to take the advanced placement u.s. history exam, with jason and matthew, co-authors of fabric of a nation . they will take your calls, facebook comments, text messages and tweets about the exam.
announcer: here's a look at our live coverage wednesday. at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span, a confirmation hearing for several judicial nominees, including those and 7th court of appeal. at 2:30, a senate judiciary subcommittee holds the hearing on gun violence prevention. then at 9:00 p.m., president biden gives his first address to a joint session of congress. on c-span 2, he said it is back at 10:00 a.m. to take up the nomination of samantha power to be head of the u.s. agency for international development. and at 10:00 a.m. on c-span 3, labor secretary marty walsh testifies at a house appropriations subcommittee hearing on the president's 2022 budget request. also, federal reserve chair jerome powell holds a news conference later in the day to
discuss monetary policy and the u.s. economy. that is live at 2:30 p.m. eastern. announcer: sunday night on q&a, investigative journalist lawrence roberts talks about his book, mayday, 1971, which examines the spring offensive, when tens of thousands of anti-vietnam war protesters, including vietnam war veterans, came to washington, d.c. in an effort to shut down the federal government. >> the story it tells is a much larger one. it's a story about how we as a nation, as a people, as individuals, built one of those periodic emergencies in american democracy. does the justice system deliver justice? do people stick by the principles, or are they caught up in their own self-preservation? and it is a story of the clash between an embattled president,
richard nixon, versus a social movement industries, just as he is fighting to get reelected. what constitutional lines did he cross, did his administration cross in an effort to stay in power? announcer: lawrence roberts, sunday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span's q&a. announcer: cdc director dr. rochelle walensky announced today it is now considered safe for fully vaccinated people together in small outdoor settings without a mask, but still recommended that mask wearing continue for large outdoor gatherings. her briefing with dr. anthony fauci and senior advisor andy slavitt is just over half an hour. mr. slavitt: good afternoon, everyone. thank you for joining us. we are going to be moving our press briefing calls from three days per week on monday,