Speeches

I am proud to join this bipartisan group today calling for the completed transition of U.S. combat and military operations in Afghanistan to the Government of Afghanistan, and for any American troop presence there after 2014 to be authorized by Congress. 

This is a timely and reasonable resolution.   As President Obama indicated in his State of the Union last week, military operations in Afghanistan will conclude at the end of 2014.  He stated: “Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America’s longest war will finally be over.”

Though the war may “be over” by some definition, it may not be over for thousands of Americans serving in the Armed Forces, and their families.   The Administration continues to negotiate for a Bilateral Security Agreement with the Afghan government to keep troops in the country after 2014, and recent news reports indicate that the Department of Defense will recommend to the President that 10,000 troops remain there for the rest of President Obama’s tenure in office. 

Any such proposal, if accepted by the President and agreed to by the Afghan government, would not end, but would extend the longest war in our nation’s history. 

After over a decade of war, Congress, and more importantly the American people, must be afforded a voice in this debate. 

Our resolution states that if the President and his military advisors determine it is in the interest of national security to keep troops in Afghanistan after 2014, they should bring their proposal to Congress so that it can be fully vetted, debated, and approved or disapproved by the representatives of the American people.  

Americans must be allowed to deliberate the objectives, strategy, risks, and cost of an extended troop presence.   This is the essence of the democratic process.   The decision to continue to sacrifice our blood and treasure in this conflict should not be made by the White House and Pentagon alone.

The resolution we are proposing does not argue for or against any recommendations from the Pentagon, prevent American presence in Afghanistan after 2014, nor attempt to alter the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.  It does not prohibit the United States from attacking al-Qaeda, gathering or sharing intelligence, or providing security for U.S. facilities or diplomatic personnel in Afghanistan.

It simply states that Congress, as representatives of our constituents, should play a role in this debate.

We understand the magnitude of the decisions that our military leaders must make, and the complexity of the situation in Afghanistan.   The United States has yet to sign a BSA with Afghanistan, and there are several contested issues that must be overcome to do so.   The country is preparing for a national election in April that will see the transition to a new administration, but it continues to struggle with the basic functions of governing in the face of internal and external threats. 

The men and women of our military, diplomatic corps, and intelligence services have done everything asked of them and performed superbly in Afghanistan.  They removed the Taliban from power and supported the new government for more than a decade.   They hunted down Osama bin Laden and have disrupted and dispersed the terrorist network he built.   While Al Qaeda remains a threat to the United States, Congress owes it to the service members who have served and who continue to serve to fully consider the merits of any future military involvement in Afghanistan.