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Correspondence With Defense Secretary Panetta On The Afghanistan/ Pakistan Study Group

Rep. Frank R. Wolf

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Mr. Speaker, I submit my correspondence with the administration on my call for an Afghanistan/Pakistan Study Group. My letters to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta of July 19, 2011; August 1, 2011; and August 8, 2011 follow:

Dear Leon: I write today concerning the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan. My amendment, which gives the Secretary of Defense the authority to establish an Afghanistan/Pakistan (Af/Pak) Study Group, was included in the House-passed FY 2012 Defense Appropriations bill. I pressed for the amendment because I believe fresh eyes are needed now to examine the situation on the ground and the overall U.S. mission. I envision the Af/Pak Study Group being modeled after the Iraq Study Group (ISG). Both you and your predecessor Bob Gates served on the ISG and know better than most the benefits it provided after three years of fighting in Iraq. Now that the U.S. is in its 10th year in Afghanistan, I believe a similar effort is necessary. Before he was appointed as ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker supported creating an Af/Pak Study Group, along with Ambassador Ronald Neumann and Jim Dobbins from the RAND Corporation. American men and women are fighting and dying in Afghanistan. If we are asking them to put their lives on the line daily, I believe we have an obligation to provide an independent evaluation of the U.S. mission. We owe our military forces nothing less. I do not have the answers. But as you know, there is a movement building in Congress in favor of pulling troops out of Afghanistan. An amendment offered by Rep. Jim McGovern earlier this year to the National Defense Authorization Act to accelerate U.S. departure from Afghanistan was narrowly defeated 204-215. If six members had changed their vote, the amendment would have passed. I have talked to several members who voted against the McGovern amendment who are seriously concerned about the war in Afghanistan and could change their vote if the situation on the ground does not improve rapidly. I also believe it is critical that Afghanistan be examined in tandem with the facts on the ground in Pakistan. It is clear that in order to be successful in Afghanistan, we must have a clear understanding of how Pakistan is influencing U.S. operations. Just look at the recent news from the region. Hamid Karzai's half-brother was murdered and his funeral bombed, Karai advisor Jan Mohammed Kahn was murdered, and militants attacked and laid siege to the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. The enclosed article printed recently in the Washington Post states, ``. . . optimism and energy vanished long ago, gradually replaced by cynicism and fear. The trappings of democracy remained in place . . . but the politics of ethnic dog fights, tribal feuds and personal patronage continued to prevail.'' The men and women serving in Afghanistan deserve to have fresh eyes look at this region as soon as possible. With House passage of the A/Pak amendment, I ask that you use your authority as secretary and move quickly to create this study group. I have discussed my amendment with John Hamre at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and he has offered to coordinate the group with professionals with a wide range of expertise. I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to discuss this important initiative and look forward to working with you to ensure we are successful in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Best wishes. Sincerely, Frank R. Wolf, Member of Congress.