Washington, D.C. (Mar. 15, 2018)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis expressing grave concerns about the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan under the strategy President Trump announced last summer, as well as the alarming escalation of efforts by the Trump Administration to retroactively classify information relating to the war.
“The Trump Administration’s increased secrecy about the 16-year war in Afghanistan—America’s longest war that has cost 2,400 lives and nearly a trillion dollars—comes as President Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan appears to be foundering badly,” the Ranking Members wrote.
On August 21, 2017, President Trump announced his new strategy for Afghanistan after frequently touting his broad military acumen during the campaign, stating for example: “There’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.”
“Unfortunately, President Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan does not appear to be improving conditions on the ground,” the Ranking Members wrote. “To the contrary, in January, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani warned about the increasingly dire conditions across the country and in the capital, Kabul.”
BBC also reported in January that “About 15 million people—half the population—are living in areas that are either controlled by the Taliban or where the Taliban are openly present and regularly mount attacks,” and Taliban fighters “are now openly active in 70% of Afghanistan.” In addition, in just over two weeks in January, three strikes in Kabul killed 128 people.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain also raised concerns about President Trump’s strategy, stating, “this committee, and the Congress more broadly, still does not know many of the crucial details of this strategy. This is totally unacceptable. I repeat, this is totally unacceptable.”
Cummings and Lynch also expressed concern that the Trump Administration is retroactively classifying information about our nation’s military efforts in Afghanistan.
“Now, more than six months after President Trump announced his new strategy in Afghanistan, we are gravely concerned that the Administration is retroactively classifying information that used to be available to the American people,” they wrote. “We believe it is completely inappropriate to abuse our nation’s classification system to conceal the policy failures of the Trump Administration.”
The Ranking Members first wrote to President Trump about these retroactive classifications on November 17, 2017, but they received no response. Instead, the Pentagon subsequently classified additional categories of information that the Obama Administration routinely released to the public, including the actual and authorized strength figures for the Afghan security forces and the percentage of trained and untrained personnel.
“Instead of reversing this retroactive classification policy, the Trump Administration has now doubled-down to classify even more information about the war in Afghanistan.”
Cummings and Lynch requested that Mattis provide documents and information on these matters by March 28, 2018.
Click here to read today’s letter.