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U.S. Combat Operations In Afghanistan

Rep. John Garamendi

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Mr. Speaker, I commend President Obama's administration for the steps it is taking to bring the longest war in our nation's history to a close. Last week, Defense Secretary Panetta expressed the hope that ``by mid- to the latter part of 2013 we'll be able to make a transition from a combat role to a training, advice and assist role.'' I urge the administration to fulfill this aspiration and bring our troops home to their families. They have sacrificed enough.

Afghanistan began as a war of necessity. After the horrific September 11th attacks, we sent troops to eliminate Al Qaeda, killing their leaders and destroying their training camps to prevent a future terrorist attack. Our troops carried out this mission with extraordinary courage and dedication. Osama Bin Laden was driven out of Afghanistan and he is now dead. Furthermore, our intelligence community affirms that Al Qaeda is virtually extinguished from Afghanistan, yet the war continues. End this war now and focus like a laser on terrorists whereever they may be.

Our troops in Afghanistan are no longer fighting terrorists who pose a threat to the United States. They are now fighting domestic Afghan factions and defending a corrupt and inept Afghan government. Our servicemembers are dying in another country's civil war. This has become a war of choice.

I recently met with Lt. Col. Danny Davis who described to me what that civil war looks like on the ground. He has served two combat deployments in Afghanistan, and has traveled throughout the country talking with US troops stationed all over. A recent evaluation of Col. Davis reads: ``His maturity, tenacity and judgment can be counted on in even the hardest of situations, and his devotion to mission accomplishment is unmatched by his peers.'' This is how Col. Davis describes what he has observed:

What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground. Entering this deployment, I was sincerely hoping to learn that the claims were true: that conditions in Afghanistan were improving . . . Instead, I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level. I saw the incredible difficulties any military force would have to pacify even a single area of any of those provinces; I heard many stories of how insurgents controlled virtually every piece of land beyond eyeshot of a U.S. or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) base. I saw little to no evidence the local governments were able to provide for the basic needs of the people. Some of the Afghan civilians I talked with said the people didn't want to be connected to a predatory or incapable local government. From time to time, I observed Afghan Security forces collude with the insurgency.

Col. Davis's candid testimony reinforced my conviction that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, only the prospect of continued shedding of American blood in a war that is not ours to fight. Only through a negotiated political settlement amongst the Afghan factions, not through an open-ended U.S. military presence, could Afghanistan become a stable, developing country.

America faces new threats now. The more than a trillion dollars spent on two wars over the course of a decade undermines our financial stability and takes away from much needed funds for American jobs and investments at home. The Obama administration has shown courageous leadership in eliminating Osama Bin Laden and other top Al Qaeda leaders. They have also shown leadership in bringing the war in Iraq to an end and in planning to ensure that the U.S. military commitment in Afghanistan is not an open-ended one. As President Obama clearly stated in his speech on the drawdown plan last year, we need to focus on nation-building at home. I agree, and I strongly support ending U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan and bringing our troops home by mid-2013, if not sooner. It is the people in this body, the United States Congress, that can choose when this war ends.