Obama’s Afghanistan Specialists Stumped on Basic Facts

December 12, 2013

Three of the Obama administration’s top Afghanistan specialists were unable to provide answers to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s (R., Calif.) basic questions during Wednesday’s House Foreign Affairs hearing on Afghanistan.

Rohrabacher asked the witnesses the amount the U.S. was spending, and how many American troops have been killed in Afghanistan this past year.

Shockingly, none of the witnesses had an answer.

"We’re supposed to believe that you fellas have a plan that’s going to end up in a positive way in Afghanistan?" Mr. Rohrabacher asked. "Holy cow!"

Even some Democrats were appalled by the lack of preparation as Rep. Gerry Connolly (D., Va.) called the witnesses’ inability to rattle off the facts "a stunning development."

"How can you come to a congressional oversight hearing on this subject and not know" the answers? Connolly asked. "Like that wouldn’t be a question the tip of one’s tongue."

Full exchange available below:

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I don't know where to begin here. How much are we spending annually in Afghanistan now? How much does the aid cost the American taxpayer? Anybody know?

MR. DOBBINS: I mean, I -- each of us have somewhat different budgets. (Inaudible) -- total budget? I --

REP. ROHRABACHER: Yeah, what would be the -- nobody knows the total budget of what we're spending in Afghanistan? It's a hearing on Afghanistan. Can I -- can I have an estimate?

MR. DOBBINS: I'm sorry, Congressman, I can't give you --

REP. ROHRABACHER: Well, I'll just have to say that it's disheartening to have a briefing from our government, people who are involved in a project, and they can't tell me what -- how much we're spending annually and --

MR. DOBBINS: It is an amount --

REP. ROHRABACHER: -- how many -- OK. How many killed and wounded have we suffered in the last 12 months?

Mr. Dumont, would you know that?

MR. DUMONT: Sir, I do not. And I will have to get back with you on that one also.

REP. ROHRABACHER: We don't know what the cost is, and we don't even know how many killed and wounded there are, and we're supposed to believe that you fellows have a plan that's going to end up in a positive way in Afghanistan? Holy cow.

MR. DOBBINS: We do know that the number of Afghan soldiers and police killed is 30 times the number --

REP. ROHRABACHER: You know what, I'll have to tell you something. I'm more interested in knowing how many Americans have been killed, because the Afghans have been killing themselves for centuries. And, you know, my father fought in Korea, and I remember when he told me -- he said, Dana, all of our -- these young men who are with me fighting in Korea, they would never have believed that we'd be there after 50 years. They'd never -- not one of those guys who went to Korea to try to stop the communist takeover would have believed that that meant that we would have been committed for 50 years.

OK. We don't know how many are killed and wounded. We don't know what the cost is. So what will be the cost? You're presenting a plan now you want us to accept. What will be the cost to the United States per year annually after your plan is applied to Afghanistan if they accept it?

MR. DOBBINS: Well, we haven't defined force levels there. I think the rough figure is probably about a million dollars per soldier, so you work out --

REP. ROHRABACHER: And how many soldiers are we asking them, pleading with them to let us send our boys into harm's way, how much -- how many soldiers is the plan to continue with our -- with our presence?

MR. DOBBINS: The president -- the president hasn't made that decision yet.

REP. ROHRABACHER: Is there a proposal to Karzai on that?

MR. DOBBINS: No, and Karzai --

REP. ROHRABACHER: I heard the number 14,000. Is that out of the ballpark?

MR. DOBBINS: If you were talking about a U.S./NATO/everybody- together figure, that would still probably be somewhat high. Karzai, in fact, has expressed no interest in the size of the residual presence.

REP. ROHRABACHER: OK. You know, yesterday the secretary of state was here, and he was telling me different things of why we -- what we can't do to make the mullahs mad. Of course he wasn't putting it that way, but -- and I suggested there was a groveling going on. I think we are groveling again. Maybe this is the grovel administration. We are groveling to Karzai. I know Karzai. I've known him for 20 years.

His family, we all know what his family's done. They've become filthy rich and we're dealing with a group there now centered around the Karzai clique. I mean, drug dealing, skimming of U.S. aid, cronyism at its worst and we're dealing with Pakistan in order to make sure we have a presence there and where -- meaning in Afghanistan -- and the Pakistanis are doing what.

We know the Pakistanis are behind the ISI, who they're financing. We know that they spend money that we ended up getting from us to kill American soldiers. This is insanity. And then we have people who want to stay longer. It's time for us to get our butts out of that country. Might not for their sake, for our sake. We don't even care enough to know how much it's costing or how many killed and wounded that we suffered. That should be right on the tip of your tongue because that's a cost to everybody's kid.

I mean, everybody has got a son there or has to know that our number one priority is that person who we sent over there, we care about him enough. But we have some other agenda in Afghanistan. I don't see what we're going to accomplish and we're asking what the goals are. If you believe that's accomplishable in Afghanistan, I've got a bridge to sell you in California. Thank you.

REP. ROYCE: Mr. Gerry Connolly of Virginia.

REP. GERALD CONNOLLY (D-VA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Well, let me just say I do think, I'd say to the panel, Mr. Rohrabacher is right. How you can come to a congressional oversight hearing on this subject with your titles and not know how much we're spending every year and not know how many casualties we incur every year or this last year I will say to the chairman of this committee is actually a stunning, stunning development.

I've been involved in foreign policy hearings and oversight for a long time, like that wouldn't be a question on the tip of one's tongue.