WASHINGTON: America cannot risk the dangers of leaving Afghanistan, President Trump’s nominee for US abassador to the war-torn country told lawmakers on Tuesday.
“We cannot afford not to sustain our efforts in Afghanistan. As a nation, we cannot afford the increased risks and peril that would come from a wholesale departure or rapid reduction in our footprint in Afghanistan,” John R. Bass said.
At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he said: “We don’t have to guess at the consequences from that policy choice.
“We experienced those consequences 16 years ago. And on a smaller but no less lethal scale, we have experienced the consequences that followed when ISIS set up shop in ungoverned spaces in Syria and Iraq, plotting, attacks against the US …”
Bass added the ISIS had used these spaces to conduct research on how to conduct mass-casualty attacks using chemical weapons and to evade detection equipment – just as an al-Qai’da affiliate did in Yemen seven years ago.
“As the president made clear in his address to the nation on August 21, we cannot — and will not — shy away from tackling these challenges head-on. The security and safety of our homeland and our fellow citizens demands it,” he continued.
If confirmed by the Senate, Bass said, he would follow the new strategy approved by the president last month. The strategy accounts for both enduring challenges and new factors in Afghanistan and across South Asia.
“It directs us to tackle the root causes of the enduring conflict in Afghanistan – which include the safe havens the Taliban continues to enjoy in Pakistan, and the support it at times receives from other neighboring states – rather than simply treating the symptoms,” he added.
Noting that the goal of the new strategy is a sustainable political outcome that prevents the reestablishment of terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan, Bass said the US will make clear to the Taliban that it cannot win or outlast US on the battlefield; the only path to peace and political legitimacy is through a negotiated political settlement.
“As you have heard in briefings on the new strategy, our support for the Afghan government’s efforts to combat Taliban violence and intimidation and resolve the conflict will be dictated by conditions on the ground — not by abstract deadlines…
“We are signaling support to the Afghan public and the entire region that the United States is determined to create the conditions that enable a political settlement. Those settlement talks, if and when they come, must remain an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led process,” Bass said.
A key element of his diplomacy focused beyond Afghanistan’s borders, he said. If confirmed, his first regional engagement priority will be to work closely with US ambassador in Islamabad to encourage improvements in the Af-Pak relationship.
“I intend to supplement this effort with equally focused work with my fellow ambassadors to ensure key regional countries with a stake in the region’s stability — including India, Russia and China — are doing everything possible to achieve that shared objective.
“We must address and prevent the hedging among some regional actors that has empowered the Taliban and lengthened the conflict,” Bass said. -Pajhwok