After 16 years of America’s longest war, the U.S. continues to have significant national security interests in Afghanistan. As we have seen, instability and the terrorism it breeds in this region directly impacts our national security.
Our ultimate goal in Afghanistan should be a just, durable peace and political resolution of the conflicts plaguing the country for so long. President Trump’s speech Monday was short on details and did little to emphasize the importance of diplomacy.
Our strategy should include all relevant regional actors. Pressure must be increased on Pakistan to end its support for extremist groups fueling violence in the region, such as the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.
The Afghan government has a central leadership role to play, with our help, in advancing reform and serious anti-corruption efforts. And America must continue to maintain the capability to counter terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
A military solution alone will not solve the conflicts that plague the country, and I oppose the president’s proposal to send more American men and women to the battlefield. The previous administration surged troops twice into Afghanistan. I do not see how this third surge would turn the tide against the insurgency.
Furthermore, I am very concerned that Trump has devolved significant authority in Afghanistan to the secretary of Defense. Pentagon leadership should certainly inform the process, but the president is the commander in chief and should take full responsibility for any decision to deploy our brave servicemembers.
I look forward to continue conducting rigorous oversight of Afghanistan policy, including through legislation that emphasizes diplomacy and development in supporting a political resolution to the conflict.
The Afghan people have endured 30 years of war. Working with our partners in the international community and inside the country, our focus must be on the hard work of diplomacy and negotiation to finally bring this conflict to an end.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., is ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.