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In an interview, Sen. John F. Kerry recalls his appearance at Vietnam hearings and says he will hold them on Afghanistan.
On Afghanistan, Kerry promised that his committee would fulfill its constitutional obligation to serve as a check on the executive branch — even though it is controlled by his fellow Democrats.
“We are not going to abrogate our responsibility,” said Kerry. “We will have hearings.”
Earlier this year, Kerry’s committee held several provocative public hearings on the situation in Afghanistan, quizzing counterinsurgency experts and U.S. troops who served there. But unlike Sen. Fulbright, Kerry has not called the top policymakers within the the Obama administration — such as the secretaries of State and Defense or the regional commander, Gen. David Petraeus — to Capitol Hill to explain and defend the strategy under critical cross-examination.
“In fairness to this administration, they have done what prior administrations did not do, which is accurately define a mission and a rationale for our presence, which is no longer this grand sweeping democratic state and so forth, but is the much more limited mission of achieving a sufficient level of stability, that the Afghans can work things out for themselves,” Kerry said.
That would leave the U.S. with “the ability to prosecute Al Qaeda and not allow them to attack the U.S. from their soil,” he said.
“This is a pretty limited goal,” said Kerry. “The key here is how Petraeus and company actually implement and define the use of those troops. You have to be very careful that this is an Afghan operation and not an American one.”
It’s essential that the U.S. win the loyalty and cooperation of the Afghan people, Kerry said. Victory “depends on whether the Afghans themselves invest and start engaging,” he said. “If a tribe is willing to stand up and protect its own valley, as they used to, then you don’t need a lot of troops on the ground.”
But “up until now there has been no strategy, no global strategy for their country, and a huge growing distrust of Kabul and of the Karzai government and of the corruption,” he said.
Afghans “have to see there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Kerry, and that light can only be provided by an American commitment of money and lives.
“Are we doing it at a level where it will take?” Kerry asked. “That is a good question. That is what our hearings are going to look at. I don’t have the answer for that right now.”
Passport members can read the full transcript of the interview with John F. Kerry.
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