Skip to comments.Rep. ROHRABACHER (1999) -- How the Clinton Administration brought the Taliban to power
Posted on 09/28/2001 7:01:18 PM PDT by Nita Nupress
April 14, 1999, Wednesday
SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS: SUBCOMMITTEE ON NEAR EASTERN AND SOUTH
U.S. SENATOR SAM BROWNBACK (R-KS) HOLDS HEARING ON THE CRISIS IN AFGANISTAN
U.S. SENATOR SAM BROWNBACK (R-KS), CHAIRMAN
U.S. SENATOR JOHN ASHCROFT (R-MO)
U.S. SENATOR GORDON H. SMITH (R-OR)
U.S. SENATOR ROD GRAMS (R-MN)
U.S. SENATOR CRAIG THOMAS (R-WY)
U.S. SENATOR PAUL DAVID WELLSTONE (D-MN), RANKING MEMBER
U.S. SENATOR ROBERT G. TORRICELLI (D-NJ)
U.S. SENATOR PAUL S. SARBANES (D-MD)
U.S. SENATOR CHRISTOPHER J. DODD (D-CT)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE DANA ROHRABACHER (R-CA)
THE HONORABLE KARL F. INDERFURTH
ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE
FOR SOUTH ASIA
MR. T. KUMAR
ADVOCACY DIRECTOR FOR ASIA
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL ASIA
DR. BARNETT RUBIN
SENIOR FELLOW AND DIRECTOR
CENTER FOR PREVENTIVE ACTION
COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
BROWNBACK: We'll call the hearing to order, thank you all very much for joining us this morning. We welcome you to this hearing on Afghanistan. The situation in Afghanistan remains a complicated one. And as the title of today's hearing states, "The Continuing Crisis in Afghanistan suggests there has not been much progress since we met almost a year and a half ago to discuss the country. Today we're going to learn the perspectives of our distinguished witnesses regarding the current status of Afghanistan in particular, the current state of the rule under the Taliban including the treatment of women and girls and the prospects for resumption of peace talks. And I want to note particularly the situation, for women in Afghanistan, is particularly dire.
They have for years endured tremendous hardship through fighting and political instability in that country. However the situation has worsened since the Taliban emerged as the majority political and military force in the late 1994 -- in late 1994. Taliban stripped women of many of the most basic human rights and made them a virtually invisible segment of the society. This intolerable treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan has continued despite repeated international requests that Taliban restore their rights. We cannot in good conscience watch in silence what is happening to women and girls in Afghanistan. Afghan women will continue to suffer at the hands of the Taliban unless the rest of the world presses for change.
Myself along with Barbara Boxer, we have introduced a resolution S. RES. 68 expressing condemnation of the inhumane treatment of women and girls by the Taliban in Afghanistan. We urge our colleagues to help us push that resolution through as a statement of our dismay and abhorrence of what the treatment has been of women in Afghanistan. And that will be a part of the focus of this hearing today.
Afghanistan remains a country of political instability. The civil war continues and there has been a surge in fighting since March. Rocket fire struck Kabul just four days ago. United Nations sponsored peace talks between the Taliban and the opposition recently broke down with no apparent prospects for a coalition government any time in the near future. It is estimated that the Taliban controls about -- between 80-90 percent of the country of Afghanistan, and has imposed strict adherence to Islamic customs in those areas that it controls. Those controls include unreasonable and extreme limitations on the activities of women and girls, limitation that threaten their health and well being.
Afghanistan also suffers from other problems. I'm referring to problems such as the production of illegal narcotics, and the training of terrorists. These matters are of such a serious nature that they undermine the public welfare and social fabric, not only for Afghanistan, but for other countries as well, including the United States. It is more than unfortunate that the actions of the Taliban have fallen far short of their promises to curb drug production and trafficking and to limit the presence and activities of terrorists. They have fallen far short in limiting those areas of what they originally had promised.
It's against this backdrop that we are hear to discuss Afghanistan. I'm interested in the comments of the witnesses and their thoughts on prospects for the future of the country. I hope we can get some understanding of the current complexities and what the United States can do, needs to do, or is not doing in dealing with the situation in Afghanistan. We've had a long-term commitment to this region that I think, frankly, has fallen off a great deal in recent times. It's not as if we don't have a number of international problems out there to deal with. But this is one that I think we have just not put sufficient focus on. And we need to put more focus in this region and this country particularly given the plight of women in Afghanistan. Delighted to be joined by the ranking member of the committee, Senator Wellstone. We'll probably have other members joining us as well during the hearing. Senator Wellstone, if you have an opening statement, we'd love to have that now.
WELLSTONE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I will be very brief. Is this mike on, can you hear me OK? I appreciate you holding the hearing and I want to welcome our witnesses, Ric Inderfurth, Mr. T. Kumar, who has done great human rights work and really appreciate his support in our office. And Barnett Rubin, or Barney Rubin. Mr. Chairman, we've got a lot of tough foreign policy challenges that fall within this subcommittee's purview, whether it is: nuclear proliferation in South Asia, a timely topic today; political challenges in Iran; the struggling Middle East process to name just a few. But I think one of the toughest challenges -- and I really appreciate your leadership on this question -- is the Taliban government in Afghanistan.
I don't need to repeat what the Chairman has just said about the just flagrant, blatant human rights abuses of women, of girls in Afghanistan, just to say that I think our government has an obligation to take the lead in whatever way we can to end these abuses and to insure that Afghanistan women and girls are no longer the subject of these violations of their basic rights. I think you're doing very good work on this issue, Senator Boxer as well. I'm proud to join you in this effort. I think this is a very important hearing and I look forward to hearing from our panelists. I guess we start with Representative Rohrabacher and I appreciate your being here, Congressman.
BROWNBACK: Thank you Senator Wellstone. I appreciate your comments and I appreciate your leadership as well. Our first panel presenter will be Congressman Dana Rohrabacher from California. He's from the US House of Representatives. Congressman Rohrabacher, welcome to the hearing, and I'm delighted to have you here. Congressman Rohrabacher, for those of you not familiar, has focused a great deal of his efforts on Afghanistan, has traveled to the region, has worked a great deal on this, and so I think has a good perspective, a very interesting perspective. And we welcome your attendance, participation, and your statement.
ROHRABACHER: Thank you very much Mr. Chairman, Senator Wellstone. And I thank you for letting me participate today. This hearing is especially significant, because beyond the important matters of human rights violations, especially against women and the matters of terrorism and drug proliferation, what transpires in Afghanistan today will have a profound impact on the entire region of Central Asia in the years to come. And I've been involved with Afghanistan since the early 1980s when I worked in the White House as a speechwriter for the President, and a special assistant to the President -- that was Ronald Reagan. And in 1988, immediately after I was elected to Congress -- I'm no longer part of the White House staff -- I traveled into Afghanistan with the Mujahadin (ph) and participated in the battle of Jullah Abat (ph) against the Soviets. At that time I learned first hand of the courage and generosity of the Afghan people. I also learned from the Afghans who I traveled with, and the villagers, who housed me, that the average Afghan is not a fanatic or a religious extremist. To the contrary, it's very hospitable -- Afghans are very hospitable and very generous people -- by the essence of their traditional culture.
What has happened during the past few years under Taliban rule is a tragic perversion of the Afghan culture and their religious heritage. Having been closely involved in US policy towards Afghanistan for some 20 years, I have called into question whether or not this administration has a covert policy that has empowered the Taliban, and enabled this brutal movement to hold on to power in Afghanistan. This, even though the president and the secretary of state have voiced their disgust for the brutal policies of the Taliban, especially their repression of women, the actual implementation of US policy has repeatedly had the opposite effect. I base this claim on the following reasons.
In 1996 the Taliban first emerged as a mysterious force that swept out of so-called religious schools in Pakistan to blitzkrieg -- it was a blitzkrieg type conquest of Afghanistan -- against some of the most seasoned Mujahadin (ph) fighters in the field. As a so- called "student militia", the Taliban could not have succeeded without the support, organization, and logistics of military professionals who would not necessarily have been on the faculty of these religious schools. Number two, the US has a very close relationship with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan on matters concerning Afghanistan. But, unfortunately instead of providing leadership, we are letting them lead our policy.
This began during the Afghan war against the Soviets, and I witnessed this first hand in the White House. When US officials, in charge of the military aid program for the Mujahadin (ph), permitted a large percentage of our assistance to be channeled to the most anti- western, non-democratic elements of the Mujahadin (ph), such as Hekmaktiar Golbadeen (ph). This was done in order to placate Pakistan's ISI military intelligence. In 1997, responding to the pleas from the Afghan-American community and the recognized Afghan Ambassador, I led an effort to stop the state department from permitting the Afghan Embassy here in Washington from being taken under control by a diplomat loyal to the Taliban. Instead of permitting a new ambassador, who was assigned by the non-Taliban Afghan government that is recognized by the United Nations, the State Department claimed we don't take sides. And forced the embassy to close against the will of the Afghanistan United Nations Office.
Also, during the late 1997s and early '98, while the Taliban imposed a blockade on more than 2 million people of Hazara ethnic group which is located in Central Afghanistan. This blockade put tens of thousands of people at risk of starving to death after perishing from lack of medicine during the harsh winter months. The state department undercut my efforts to send two planeloads of medicine by the Ameri-cares and Knights-bridge relief agencies. The State Department representatives made false statements that a humanitarian crisis had been exaggerated and that there was already sufficient medical supplies in the blockaded area. When the relief team's risked their lives to go into that area anyway with the medicines that we raised privately, and I say without the support of the State Department, on April 14, 1999, that's when they went in. They found the hospitals and clinics did not have even aspirins or bandages and no generators to provide heat in sub-zero weather. And there was a serious lack of blankets and a scant amount of food.
The State Department in effect was assisting the Taliban's inhumane blockade intended to starve out communities, which opposed their dictates. Perhaps the most glaring evidence of this administration's tacit support was the effort made during the Spring of 1998, when a visit to Afghanistan made by Mr. Inderfurth who will be with us today and the United Nations Ambassador Bill Richardson. These administration representatives convinced the anti-Taliban northern alliance not to go on the offensive against a then weakened and vulnerable Taliban. Instead they convinced the anti-Taliban leaders to accept a cease-fire that was proposed by Pakistan. This cease-fire lasted only as long as it took the Pakistanis to re-supply and reorganize the Taliban. In fact within a few months of the announcement of the U.S. backed Ulima (ph) process, the Taliban freshly supplied by the ISI from Pakistan and flush with drug money went on a major offensive and destroyed the northern alliance.
So, our administration, at a pivotal moment, interceded in a way that brought the Taliban to almost complete power in Afghanistan. This was either incompetence on the part of the State Department and US intelligence agencies, or it is indicative of a real policy, the real policy of our government to insure a Taliban victory. Can anyone believe that with a Taliban, identified by the United Nations and the DEA as one of the two largest producers of Opium in the world; that they weren't being closely monitored by our intelligence services who would have seen every move of the military buildup of the Pakistanis and when they tried to build up the forces of the Taliban.
In addition, at the same time the US was planning its strike incidentally, against the terrorist camps of Bin Laden in Afghanistan. How could our intelligence services not have known that Bin Laden's forces were in the North to lead the Taliban offensive. Where, and I might add during this Taliban offensive, after we convinced these people not to go on the offensive when they had the leverage, you know the anti-Taliban forces. When the Taleban took over it was the most brutal takeover that you can imagine, where they would go and cut the hands off young men, the right hand off young men so they couldn't ever shoot a gun at the Taliban again. And incredible atrocities against women.
In addition, there has been no major effort to end the flow of opium out of Afghanistan, which is the main source of revenue that enables the Taliban to maintain its control of the country. And this even though the United States government, with our satellites, knows exactly where the opium is being grown in Afghanistan. And having hiked through Afghanistan on several occasions, I can tell you it is clear where the opium is being grown. But we have taken no efforts as far as we can see, publicly, to try to eliminate that as a source of revenue for the Taliban. I am making the claim that there is, and has been, a covert policy by this administration to support the Taliban movement's control of Afghanistan. It is my guess that this amoral, or immoral policy is based on the assumption that the Taliban would bring stability to Afghanistan and permit the building of oil pipelines from central Asia through Afghanistan to Pakistan.
We have a choice between believing that this administration's policy toward Afghanistan has been incompetent beyond belief, or directed at achieving a covert purpose. I believe the administration has maintained this covert goal and kept Congress in the dark about its policy of supporting the Taliban, the most anti-western, anti- female, anti-human rights regime in the world. It doesn't take a genius to understand that this policy would outrage the American people, especially America's women. Perhaps the most glaring evidence of our government's covert policy to favor the Taliban is that this administration is currently engaged in a major effort to obstruct the Congress from determining the details behind this policy.
Last year in August, several unofficial requests were made of the State Department. And I then made an official request that all diplomatic documents concerning US policy towards the Taliban, especially those cables and documents from our embassies in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, be made available to the Congress.
As a senior member of the House International Relations Committee and a Senior Member of the Subcommittee, with jurisdiction in Asia and Pacific, I have oversight responsibility in this area. In November, after months of stonewalling, the Secretary of State herself, in a hearing, on the record, made a commitment promised, before the international relations committee, that the documents that I had requested would be forthcoming. She reconfirmed that promise in February when she testified before our committee on the State Department budget. The chairman of the committee, Mr. Ben Gillman added his voice on the record to support my document request. At this time, and to this moment we have received nothing, zero. Not a few documents, not one document, zero documents.
Either the State Department is totally incompetent, or there is an ongoing cover-up of the State Department's true fundamental policy towards Afghanistan. Now you probably didn't expect me to end my testimony, which has been rather scathing, obviously, with a complement of the State Department. But, I don't think the State Department is incompetent. They should be held responsible for their policies, and the American people should know, through documented proof, what they are doing. And finally Mr. Chairman, I want to complement you on the leadership you have been providing. This is an area on the other side of the world that most people know nothing about. But I believe it is a part of the world that is vital to the future of this planet.
The wealth and commerce and the stability of that region will determine whether the entire planet will be able to enjoy prosperity and peace and stability in the years ahead. And your personal leadership in Central Asia, and especially now in Afghanistan, which I believe is the key to stability in Central Asia, is much appreciated by this congressman, and by people in that part of the world who sometimes think that they are forgotten. So, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
BROWNBACK: Thank you very much congressman. And I do think this is a critical part of the world, and Afghanistan is a linchpin country, determining on what happens there, not only in Afghanistan, but in much of that region. Because what filters out or comes out of Afghanistan has a great deal of impact. Also when we had the hearing last year on Afghanistan, I would note to my colleague and to others that might be monitoring this. We heard a lot of people talk about that the U.S., as long as the Soviet Union was focused on Afghanistan, we were there. And we were there in a big way, and we were there focused. But after the Soviet Union fell, it didn't seem to be the linchpin issue on defeating communism. We waned, we walked away, and it really had not had our intensity of focus that we needed to have. And it's to the country's detriment and to our detriment that that's happened. And to the region's detriment.
Congressman Rohrabacher, I appreciate your 20 years of focus. You've made a number of serious charges towards the Administration and I will offer Assistant Secretary Inderfurth the time needed to respond to those, either this morning or in writing later on. So, that he will have the opportunity to directly respond.
ROHRABACHER: I would make one request to the chairman, and that if he could add his name to a request of all documents concerning the State Departments policy toward the Taliban from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. That you then could also make this request so that you could see what our policy is. And maybe that will stimulate them to let Congress do our job, which is overseeing this policy.
BROWNBACK: I will add my name to this request.
ROHRABACHER: Thank you.
Updated Sept. 14, 2001:
Unocal reiterates prior statements The company is not supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan in any way whatsoever. Nor do we have any project or involvement in Afghanistan.
Beginning in late 1997, Unocal was a member of a multinational consortium that was evaluating construction of a Central Asia Gas (CentGas) pipeline between Turkmenistan and Pakistan. Part of this pipeline would have crossed western Afghanistan. However, Unocal suspended its participation in the CentGas consortium in August 1998 and formally withdrew from that consortium in December 1998.
Our company has had no further role in developing or funding that project or any other project that might involve the Taliban. The pipeline was never constructed.
During this time, Afghanistan was in the midst of a civil war. We met with many factions, including the Taliban, to educate them about the benefits such a pipeline could bring to this desperately poor and war-torn country, as well as to the Central Asian region. At no time did we make any deal with the Taliban, and, in fact, consistently emphasized that the project could not and would not proceed until there was an internationally recognized government in place in Afghanistan that fairly represented all its people. Our hope was that the project could help bring peace, stability and economic development to the Afghans, as well as develop important energy resources for the region.
Unocal suspended its participation in the CentGas consortium (see statement). The company officially withdrew from the project in December 1998 (see statement below). After several incorrect reports appeared, including one published in Pakistan in February 1999, Unocal reconfirmed its position regarding this matter in another statement dated Feb. 16, 1999.
. . .we really need to share the truth. . .:^)
From 17... Inderfurth kept up the policy [of having lovely tea parties with the Taliban], even as bin Laden - residing in areas under Taliban control - was blamed for the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. He met with Taliban officials in New York, Washington, Islamabad, and Kandahar.
"The Taliban will not go away," he said at a Senate hearing in October 1998. "This is a reality."
What a difference a good leader makes.
old time sakes’ bump
Thanks for the ping Piasa.