|Tanner talks NATO at Afghanistan hearing |
|Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2009 2:34 pm |
|Washington – U.S. Rep. John Tanner, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, discussed his ongoing dialogue with NATO-nation legislators during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Afghanistan. |
The committee, on which Tanner serves, heard testimony from Karl Eikenberry, Ambassador to Afghanistan, and General Stanley McChrystal, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan.
“I see and am very encouraged by the reaction of the NATO parliamentarian members at the last meeting… three weeks ago. And there’s a new spirit and a new cooperation,” Tanner said.
“I think for the first time in several years… to use a football analogy, that they realize and have no problem with the United States being the quarterback of NATO. They’d just like to be in the huddle when the play is called.
“And you and, I think, the Administration have done a good job of including them in the huddle…. [I]t makes a tremendous amount of difference, let me say, in the attitude and the atmosphere where all of these parliamentarians from member nations gather. And as the President of that organization for the next year, I want to thank you both for doing that.
“I would encourage you every way you can to always speak of this as a coalition-led fight and not us going it alone…. I was on active duty during the Vietnam days, and I saw that critical mass of public support that’s necessary for a prolonged overseas deployment… just frittered away. And I’ve been worried that that would be the case in Europe…,” the congressman added.
“But it’s important, in my judgment, to maintain this critical mass of public support for the coalition. And so anything you all could do, [please do], including [to] reiterate from time to time that we’re not there to westernize anybody. We got off the beam in Iraq talking about that we’re going to create this Western-style democracy. [That] won’t work.
“We’re not there to westernize Afghanistan, in my view, and I think that [declaration] appeals to the European allies in NATO. We’re there to enable the Afghan people and their institutions to say no to the Taliban and al Qaeda. [T]hat’s why we’re there. And if they can do that, and we can limit the sphere of influence that this poisonous philosophy has, and hopefully limit it to an area where we can monitor and contain it, hopefully it’ll wither and die like a plant without water…,” Tanner noted
“On the civilian surge, talking with some of my colleagues and people who have been there, there seems to be a bottleneck on the civilian side with respect to getting projects actually on the ground. You get people there, but they can’t get through the maze of OKs…. I know we were [robbed] blind in Iraq sometimes because we didn’t have some protections. But if you could really take a close look, both of you, at the coordination of the commanders of the [Commander’s Emergency Response Program] money and how that can be streamlined with the civilian money and coordinated, I would really encourage you to do that, because I think that, as both of you have said, is a critical part of our success.
“The other thing I would like to talk about is the reintegration. I think [the Commander of the U.S. Central Command] General [David] Petraeus, talked about it yesterday – and I knew him when he was at Fort Campbell in our district. I think that is, down the line, maybe a part of it. And I would be encouraged to have your insight into what you think the chances of that are.
“The state of play in Pakistan, of course, is a large, large part of this, particularly if we’re going to try to contain on the border, in some physical manner, these bad guys so that we can monitor and contain their sphere of influence,” Tanner added.
Tanner represents the 8th Congressional District in West and Middle Tennessee.
Co-founder of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats, Tanner serves on the Ways and Means Committee, where he chairs the Social Security Subcommittee, and on the Foreign Affairs Committee. A veteran of the U.S. Navy and the Tennessee Army National Guard, Tanner chairs the U.S. delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and is serving as NATO PA President.