Ike Skelton, Chairman
March 10, 2010
Skelton Opposes Resolution to Remove U.S. Forces From Afghanistan
Washington, D.C. – Today, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) delivered the following statement in opposition to H. Con. Res. 248, directing the President to remove U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of the year:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H. Con. Res. 248, an ill-timed resolution that threatens to undermine the recent gains made by U.S. forces and our Afghan and coalition partners.
“Six months ago, I wrote a letter to the President while he was conducting a full review of our strategy in Afghanistan, urging him to adopt—and fully resource—an effective counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. I still maintain that pursuing such a policy offers the best chance for success in our mission there.
“Afghanistan is an epicenter of terrorism. We cannot forget that it was the genesis of multiple attacks that killed thousands of Americans—our children, our parents, our spouses, and our neighbors. We must do everything we can to ensure that it will never again be used as a safe haven for those who seek to do us harm.
“Last December, after eight long years with no strategy in Afghanistan, President Obama recommitted our nation to defeating al Qa’ida and reminded us that the success of this mission requires us to work with our international allies and Afghan partners.
“The President also announced that our military commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, the best we have, would receive an additional 30,000 troops to implement this counterinsurgency strategy. These additional combat troops, combined with those already in theater, would allow our troops and civilian experts to partner with their Afghan counterparts, reverse the momentum of the Taliban, and create conditions needed for governance and economic development.
“Even with just a fraction of these reinforcements in place, we already see signs of success. Last month, Afghan, allied, and U.S. forces launched an operation to push the Taliban out of Marjah, a town of about 50,000 people in central Helmand province that became a new hub of activity for the Taliban and insurgents after our Marines drove them out of nearby Garmsir.
“We successfully pushed the Taliban out of Marjah and are now beginning to reestablish government in the area—the second phase of the operation. A new Afghan administrator has been put in place, and the process of building that government has begun.
“Additionally, in recent days, Pakistani forces made the most significant Taliban captures since the war began, detaining the Taliban’s second in command, a former Taliban finance minister, and two “shadow governors” of Afghan provinces.
“This mission will be costly, and it will not be easy. Hard fighting lies ahead for our forces. The Afghan people will have to recommit themselves to building a government that is mostly free of corruption and is capable of providing justice and security. And, it is unclear if there will be future captures in Pakistan.
“But, this counterinsurgency strategy is the best chance we have to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for al Qa’ida and those who wish to kill Americans. If we vote to pull out now and abandon those Afghans who have only recently been freed from the Taliban, I have no doubt that the Taliban would be able to reestablish their hold on Southern Afghanistan, if not the entire country.
“After eight long years, we finally have a strategy for success in Afghanistan. And, we have a President who appointed the right leaders in General McChrystal and Ambassador Eikenberry and who is willing to provide those leaders with the military and civilian experts they need. Success is not guaranteed in this mission. But, passing this irresponsible resolution guarantees failure in Afghanistan and poses a serious risk that we will once again face the same situation that existed on September 10, 2001.
“Mr. Speaker, thank you. I hope my colleagues will join me in opposition to this resolution.”
HASC (House Armed Services Committee)