VIDEO - Coons in London: "It is hard to credibly talk about 'winning' in either Syria or Afghanistan, but we can lose."
In London, Sen. Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered remarks at the Royal United Services Institute on the U.S. and allied military commitments in Syria and Afghanistan. Coons is in London after the Munich Security Conference this weekend.
“There is not a high likelihood of a clear-cut battlefield victory in either conflict,” said Coons.
“After so many years and so many lives, it is hard to credibly talk about ‘winning’ in either Syria or Afghanistan, but we can lose. And we can lose decisively. We can lose credibility with our core allies and partners if our withdrawal is done without proper consultation and done abruptly. We can lose the gains we have managed to make on the ground and in the lives of the people of both Syria and Afghanistan. We can critically lose the leverage to help ensure that the people of Syria and Afghanistan have a central role in shaping their future.”
On the U.S.-U.K. relationship:
The United States in my view has no better partner, no closer ally than the United Kingdom…The challenges that we face in this century in the world – from transnational terrorism to nuclear non-proliferation, from climate change to global pandemics – require alliances and close partnerships built not just on interests or on client relationships but on shared core values, and in undertaking these challenges, the United States has no better partner than the United Kingdom.
On the trans-Atlantic alliance:
I am concerned about the state of the trans-Atlantic alliance, and determined to make sure that our relationship and our ties remain as close as possible despite the obvious current strains…Close to two dozen Senators and three dozen House members voted with our feet and chose to attend the Munich Security Conference in the largest delegation of Americans ever in its 55-year history. Our joint purpose was to demonstrate in person our commitment to the trans-Atlantic relationship, to NATO, and to our special relationship with the United Kingdom.
I appreciate the unique political forces on both sides of the Atlantic – the rise of populism and nationalism to the distrust of institutions and the weariness towards foreign commitments. But that does not mean we should abandon the goals we have pursued together for seven decades and that have produced security and prosperity for our people. Challenges from a weaker yet more aggressive and potentially lethal Russia to a broadly ascendant China underscore the importance of our shared values and this history that underlays the trans-Atlantic alliance.
On U.S. troop commitment in Syria and Afghanistan:
I strongly support a continued presence by United States troops on the ground in Syria and Afghanistan to retain the capacity to prevent groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS to establish physical strongholds and to launch again terrorist attacks against our nations. I am gravely concerned that an abrupt and precipitous withdrawal from either country threatens to erase the fragile and reversible gains and now the positive momentum that both U.K. and U.S. troops have won together.
We need, as a country, to have a robust debate about the best way to deal with international terrorism, not in an attempt to score political points as we approach our next national elections, but in order to develop an enduring strategy for our nation that our people can support and for our Western partners and allies so that all of us and all of our constituencies can believe in the mission and the purpose we’re undertaking.
As we continue a fight in Afghanistan and Syria that is critical so that we do not face internationally-based terrorists in our home capitals, we need to stay closer than ever, we need to remain shoulder to shoulder, and we need to reinforce the values and the tactics that have underlain this hard and difficult work for so many years.