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Mr. CARPER. Mr. President, last week was the second of 2 weeks of the Easter recess. A number of us took that opportunity to travel to places around the world where our Nation is involved and has great interests. Senator Ensign, Senator SCOTT BROWN, Senator Tom Udall, and a Congressman from Virginia, the First Congressional District of Virginia, named ROB WITTMAN, and I together visited--it was a 6-day trip--several days in Afghanistan and a couple of days in Pakistan as well, places I suspect the Presiding Officer has been or will be visiting.
I led a similar congressional delegation almost 10 months ago to both countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan. I had gone there right after the President had laid out his strategy for making progress in Afghanistan to restore the rule of law, to make sure the Taliban does not come back into power and provide sanctuary for al-Qaida to launch attacks against us or any other nation.
The President, at the time, my colleagues may recall, said we were going to do a couple of things. He suggested a year ago that we launch a military offensive, almost like a military surge on a modest basis, and we do the same thing with a civilian offensive. What he called for a year ago was to commit an additional 10,000 marines, commit 7,000 Army troops, commit 4,000 U.S. trainers to train the Afghan National Army and Afghan national police, and to also send over about 150 additional Black Hawk helicopters. That would be matched by a civilian surge as well to complement the military increase in resources.
When we were coming out of Afghanistan, we did a press availability with some reporters back home. One of the reporters asked me the question: What is our exit strategy in Afghanistan?
I replied: I think our exit strategy is to implement well the strategy the President outlined in April of last year. That was the additional marines, additional Army troops, additional trainers, additional Black Hawk helicopters for mobility, and the civilian surge to help us with the Afghans; to diversify the economy, the poppy seed trade where they produce enough opium to meet the demands of the world, to help them raise the kinds of agricultural commodities they used to raise to feed themselves and a lot of the folks in that part of the world.
We want to help them diversify their economy with respect to the mining and minerals industry. We want to make sure they would have the opportunity to exploit the oil and gas reserves, which are about three times what was envisioned a couple of years ago; at the same time, on the civilian side, work with the Afghans in cleaning up corruption which is rampant in most levels of Afghanistan and to help them to start developing a governmental institution to provide services, actually serve the people of that country. That is what was laid out a year ago.
I have been joined by Senator Ensign. I will yield to him in a moment.
In my mind, when I returned almost a year ago to America, I thought it was a smart strategy. The key is to implement it well. We met with the Afghanis last week, and we had an opportunity to see what we are doing well and not doing well. I think what is key in almost every endeavor I have been part of is leadership.
We spent time with General McChrystal, our top military leader, and Ambassador Eikenberry, who used to be a four-star general and is now Ambassador to Afghanistan. We met with President Karzai and the civilian and military leadership of Afghanistan, as well as the civilian leadership of the United States.
I came home not hopeless, not euphoric, but more hopeful than not that we have the right strategy, that we are beginning to implement it well. We have some 40 other nations involved with us in this endeavor. We are committing the resources to make this strategy potentially successful.
That is my take on it. I yield at this time to the Senator from Nevada, Mr. Ensign. I have already asked unanimous consent to engage in a colloquy. I will not ask that again. This is what it is about. It is not a monologue for me. I very much enjoyed the time I spent on the road with my colleagues, especially my colleague from Nevada. I was happy to be his partner and lead the delegation.
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Mr. CARPER. Mr. President, if I may respond, the Senator summed it up very nicely. One of the things Senator Ensign and I and our colleagues discussed with President Karzai and with the military leadership of that country and the civilian leadership of Afghanistan and with our own folks over there is the nature of the economy of Afghanistan. We heard a lot about corruption and heard a fair amount about their agricultural economy, which is largely dependent on raising poppies which feed the opium trade that provides a lot of money selling heroin around the world and to the Taliban and other insurgent groups.
The question on which Senator Ensign and I have gone back and forth with our folks over there and the Afghan leaders is, What is likely to be the most successful approach for us to take to eventually stop the addiction of the Afghan farmers to raising poppies? It was not that long ago that they had the ability to raise plenty of wheat and cotton and all sorts of fruits and nuts.
They make a fair amount of money on poppies. One problem is it is an illicit trade. It is an illicit and bogus way on which to base their economy. It subverts the government and corrupts the whole system over there. This is an important issue going forward. How do we help wean the farmers off an illicit agricultural economy to do something they used to do?
We sort of agree we need a tough love approach. We have to encourage and provide opportunities--seeds, fertilizer, advice, tactical assistance--on how to raise the kinds of products they used to raise.
Someone told us in one of our meetings that the people of India, not that far away from Afghanistan, would consume every pomegranate the folks in Afghanistan would raise. There are plenty of big markets and lots of hungry people to buy those commodities.
The question is: Do we go out and eradicate all the poppies in the fields like, next week, or do we allow the poppies to be harvested but make it clear that is it? Then, next year we will help folks plant a different kind of crop, but we are not going to stand by next year and allow them to harvest poppies.
It is an issue that I think can be resolved, but I think it is a tough love approach. It is important, if we want to get rid of corruption in the government, in the country, we cannot avoid the widespread effect on it from poppies.
Mr. ENSIGN. If the Senator will yield.
Mr. CARPER. Yes.
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Mr. CARPER. Senator McCain, along with Senator Brown, spent a lot of time in uniform. I know our Senators felt a special pride in our troops who are serving over there. They are serving with troops from 40 other countries, and not all countries send troops. Countries such as Japan sent money. They are quadrupling their salaries so they can hire some decent people and keep them. But in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine personnel we met with, morale was good. They understood their mission, they understood the importance of their mission, and they were proud to be serving. We are very proud to support them.
Before our time expires entirely, I will yield back to Senators ENSIGN and BROWN for any closing comments they want to make, and then I think Senator McCain wants to talk a little.
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Mr. CARPER. Let me just close it down for our side. I say to Senator Brown, it was a great opportunity to travel with him and get to know him and to learn. I thank him so much for being a great part of our team. I also thank Wendy Anderson, who helped put that together, and Army MAJ Jen McDonough.
We have been joined on the floor by Congressman ROBERT WITTMAN from the First District of Virginia. I say, with him sitting there, how impressed we were with him and how delighted we were to serve with him.
The road ahead in Afghanistan won't be easy. It is an important road for us to travel. It is not one we have to travel by ourselves. A lot of other nations are involved in this with their time, their treasure, and their people.
We need the best efforts from the leadership of Afghanistan. We know he is under a lot of pressure. We made it very clear to President Karzai that we have no intention of being an occupying force. We have every intention of bringing our folks home within a reasonable period of time. This is not an open-ended commitment. My hope is it will not run up the cash register as much as Senator Ensign has suggested, but nevertheless it is an important use of our resources. This is the battle, in my judgment, this is the war we should have been fighting all along.
I thank my colleagues for their patience, and I yield.
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