Examiner Editorial: Congress needs to read Afghan report before vote

Let’s hear it for Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich. The ranking minority member of the House Intelligence Committee is one of the few congressmen on record as having read the unredacted Afghanistan strategy report by Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

The classified McChrystal report — not the redacted version published by The Washington Post — contains a series of recommendations, from increasing troop strength to addressing the Afghan prison system, which has become an insurgent “sanctuary and base to conduct lethal operations.”

It appears that few of Hoekstra’s House colleagues have followed his example and actually read what McChrystal said. The Examiner called every member of the House Armed Services Committee, for example, and received mixed responses.

“I can’t remember whether I read the classified or the declassified report. I can’t remember,” Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told The Examiner’s Susan Ferrechio last week. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., admitted to not even being aware that the report was available. “I’m worried about health care,” McDermott told Ferrechio, “I actually didn’t even know it was out there.” A spokesman for Joe Wilson, R-S.C., said he read only the report that was made public.

Several members, such as Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., claimed they cannot discuss classified materials. A spokesman for Rep. Madeleine Z. Bordallo, D-Guam, offered that she was “aware of the general’s recommendations.” Jen Cole, a majority side spokesman for the committee, said House policy “is not to confirm any information about such documents, including which individuals may have access to or read them.”

But that didn’t stop the aforementioned congressmen, nor did it prevent the offices of Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., Joe Sestak, D-Pa., Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, Joe Courtney, D-Conn., John Kline, R-Minn., Rob Whittman, R-Va., Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Thomas Rooney, R-Fla., from responding unequivocally that they had read the report.

It’s troubling that a number of legislators on the armed services committee have ignored a 66-page report that includes critically important information not made available to the public at large.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration is settling on a strategy that strikes a balance between increasing troop numbers to protect 10 major population centers (McChrystal’s recommendation) and using air raids and drones to attack insurgents (the position advocated by renowned military strategist Joe Biden).

Members of Congress ought to at least read the general’s report before deciding how to vote.

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