Mr. Chairman, first of all I want to say that I’ve quite enjoyed working with the gentleman from Ohio on this issue, and on a number of the issues that we’ve had dealings with since I’ve become chairman. And I fundamentally agree with him and other supporters of this resolution that it is right for the House to have an open, honest debate on the merits of our ongoing military operations in Afghanistan -- and outside, outside the context of a defense spending bill or a supplemental appropriations bill. This is a good thing to be doing.
By vesting the power to declare war with Congress, the Founders intended that the United States would go to war only when absolutely necessary, and it is incumbent on this body to consider as thoroughly as possible the purpose and ongoing necessity of committing U.S. forces to battle.
Now, as a procedural matter I take issue with the invocation of Section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution as the basis for this debate. Because that section authorizes a privileged resolution – like the one before us today – to require the withdrawal of combat forces when Congress has not authorized the use of military force.
There really can’t be any doubt that Congress authorized U.S. military action in Afghanistan. The authorization for the use of military force passed by Congress in late September 2001 explicitly empowers the President to use force against the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks and those who harbored them. President Obama is doing just that.
But putting aside the procedures, the notion that we would demand a complete withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year without regard to the consequence of our withdrawal; without regard to the situation on the ground – including efforts to promote economic development and expand the rule of law – and without any measurement of whether the “hold” strategy now being implemented is indeed working – I don’t think is the responsible thing to do.
Our troops are fighting a complex nexus of terrorist organizations – al Qaeda, the Taliban – all of which threaten the stability of the Afghan government, and they’ve already demonstrated their ability to strike our homeland.
If we withdraw from Afghanistan before the government there is capable of providing a basic level of security for its own people, we face the prospect that the Taliban once will again take the reins of power in Kabul and provide safe haven to al Qaeda.
That would be a national security disaster.
I’m keenly aware that even if we remain in Afghanistan -- and here I want to emphasize this – there’s no guarantee that we will prevail in our fight against al Qaeda. But if we don’t try, we are guaranteed to fail.
President Obama has taken a very deliberative approach. He’s examined numerous options over the course of several months and consulted with all relevant military leaders and allies. He really left no stone unturned and no issue un-vetted as part of this review. He deserves an opportunity now to implement his strategy.
He has given us the timeline for when he expects to see results, and there will be a reassessment of our strategy in 18 months.
General McChrystal, commander of U.S. and international forces, indicated that we have made progress since the new strategy was announced on December 1st.
We’re witnessing the first major joint NATO-Afghanistan military operation in the city of Marjah, considered a strategic fulcrum for ridding the region of the Taliban. Our troops are working side-by-side by their Afghan counterparts. They retook Marjah in three weeks of hard but well-executed efforts. They are making the Afghan people their number one priority, which is the basis for this counter-insurgency strategy.
And to that end, the State Department and USAID have been working very hard to develop a concrete governance and development strategy.
I was here during the frenzied debate following 9/11 when Congress authorized the use of force against those responsible for the horrors of that day, and those who chose to provide the perpetrators a safe haven. And I was here for the vote a year later to authorize military force against Iraq. Please don’t conflate the two -- the fight in Afghanistan is the fight against those who attacked us.
I’m not endorsing an open-ended commitment. I’m not advocating that we remain without assessing our progress. But I do believe this strategy of our President’s deserves support, and I urge opposition to the resolution.