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US has a ‘humble’ mission in Afghanistan, says Pompeo

WASHINGTON: Mike Pompeo, named by the US president as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s successor, said at his confirmation hearing that he believed Washington now had a ‘humble’ mission in Afghanistan: to bring more stability to that country.

Pompeo, a former lawmaker who now heads the Central Intelligence Agency, appeared before the Senate’s foreign relations committee to defend his nomination. He was grilled by both Republican and Democratic senators on his close ties to President Donald Trump and on his views about Muslims, Iran, Syria and North Korea.

Some senators, particularly those from the Democratic Party, suggested that his tough views on these issues raised the chances of America getting more involved in foreign wars.

Senator Rand Paul, a Republican who is leading the campaign for America to leave Afghanistan, asked Mr Pompeo if he believed it’s time to get out of that country.

“I think the course of action that President Trump has taken there is the right one. It is humble in its mission. It understands that we have been there an awfully long time,” Mr Pompeo said.

“It has an objective of leaving, but it’s not prepared to leave until such time that we can put America in a position where we can leave (after) greatly diminishing the threat to our homeland that may emanate from there.”

The future secretary of state argued that to achieve this point, America needs to continue the effort it has undertaken. “An effort alongside that which would be required to achieve that first objective: to create, and I want to be humble, more stability in Afghanistan,” he said.

Senator Paul, however, referred to Mr Trump’s past statements, emphasising that now was the time to leave Afghanistan and ask if there’s a difference of opinion between him and the president.

“The president also said that he was committed to the mission that I outline there. It is consistent with what secretary of state has been trying to do diplomatically. It is consistent with what secretary of defence has been trying to do by supporting Afghan forces.

“I believe that we have a continued role there,” Mr. Pompeo said. “While I want to get out in the same way as you do, we are not at a place yet where it is appropriate.”

Senator Paul, however, argued that now was the time to leave as “all those terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan” who had participated in the 9/11 attacks, had been eliminated and some of the soldiers fighting there were not even born when 9/11 happened.