BY CINDY SAINE FOR VOA NEWS FROM WASHINGTON – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry said Tuesday that the leaking of tens of thousands of U.S. military documents on the Afghan war has little significance for U.S. policy in the region. But skepticism about U.S. military operations in Afghanistan is growing among Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
At a committee hearing on reconciliation options for Afghanistan, Kerry dismissed the significance of the leaked documents. “I think it is important not to overhype or get excessively excited about the meaning of those documents,” he said.
The website WikiLeaks has revealed about 75,000 U.S. Army and Marine Corps documents pertaining to the war in Afghanistan in what it says is the pursuit of transparency and accountability.
Kerry called the leak unacceptable, and said most, if not all, of the documents predate President Barack Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan that he outlined in December.
Earlier, President Obama said he is concerned about the massive disclosure of classified documents, but he said the reports do not reveal concerns that were not already part of the public debate.
Kerry said the most disturbing parts of the leaked information are allegations that the Pakistani intelligence service has a close relationship with the Afghan Taliban. “These are not new allegations. It is important for everybody to understand that. We have been wrestling with these allegations and we have made some progress,” he said.
Kerry has been instrumental in securing a $7.5-billion development aid package for Pakistan. He is finding himself under pressure from Democratic and Republican lawmakers who are questioning the success of Obama administration policies in the region.
But the witnesses at the reconciliation hearing called for Congress and the American people not to abandon efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.
A former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Pakistan, Ryan Crocker, said a long-term counterinsurgency strategy is needed in Afghanistan, but that it requires time and patience – two things, he said, that are in short supply in America. “Our friends are unsure of our commitment and hedge their bets; our enemies think they can outlast us. We need to make it clear to both that our determination is equal to theirs,” he said.
David Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency analyst at the Washington-based Center for a New American Security, said it is important for Afghan reconciliation to try to include rank and file members of the Taliban. He also said it would be wise to try to negotiate from a position of strength. Kilcullen added that international and Afghan forces need a big, tactical hit on the Taliban. “We need to kill a lot of Taliban, and we need to disrupt their organization. And it is unpleasant, but it is just unavoidable. You have to do that kind of damage to a terrorist organization before it becomes willing to talk,” he said.
Kilcullen said history shows that it is very difficult to defeat a counterinsurgency and that time and patience are essential.
Senator Kerry expressed some frustration with the lack of progress after almost 10 years of U.S. operations in Afghanistan, saying he believes Afghans need to realize that it is their fight, and that the American people are not willing to have combat troops in the country indefinitely.
President Obama says he plans to begin to withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan next July.