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Public Statements

Wicker Calls for Strong Partnership for Success in Afghanistan

Statement

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Date:
Location: Unknown

In Washington, D.C., we often have the opportunity to host leaders from around the world and discuss global issues that are mutually important to the United States and foreign nations. Today, one of our most critical partnerships is the one we share with the leaders of Afghanistan, our ally in the global fight against terrorism. President Hamid Karzai recently visited the nation's capital to renew the bonds of that partnership and discuss the challenges that lie ahead in the war in Afghanistan. This is the Afghan President's first trip to the U.S. since America expanded our troop presence in his country. Mr. Karzi stopped by the Senate, and I spoke with him about the importance of this partnership.

Relationship of Mutual Respect
In my view, one of the most critical outcomes of this visit was repairing the public rift that has developed between the U.S. and Afghanistan. On an unannounced trip to Kabul in March, President Obama sharply chided Mr. Karzai, touching off a high-profile conflict that has threatened our delicate relationship with the Afghan government. I agree that there are troubling questions of corruption within the Afghan government that should be answered. However, those are conversations that should occur between high level officials behind closed doors -- not in the public arena. In 2002, Mr. Karzai emerged from a loya jurga, or grand assembly, as the leader of his people. He has won reelection in his country. As our chief partner in Afghanistan, he must be treated respectfully so we can protect our high-stakes interest in his country, including 100,000 American troops who are fighting for our security and theirs.

During the Washington visit, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warmly received Mr. Karzai, and I hope this will help solidify a foundation of mutual respect and understanding moving forward. I was also encouraged to see Mr. Karzai's heartfelt acknowledgment of our nation's sacrifices in Afghanistan. There is no place where that sacrifice is more evident than at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Mr. Karzai visited the medical hospital and met with brave American troops who are being treated for serious injuries they incurred in battle. The Afghan President was deeply moved by the experience, which he described as "a very difficult moment" that was "heart-rendering."

Challenges Lie Ahead
It was important for Mr. Karzai to observe for himself the nature of America's sacrifice, particularly as both countries prepare for the challenges to come. I was recently briefed by General Stanley McCrystal, commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, and he and other leaders have made it clear that things will get worse in Afghanistan before they get better. As the U.S. ramps up counterinsurgency efforts in Taliban strongholds, notably the Kandahar province, violence and casualties will rise. This is a necessary step in helping establish stability and rule of law in Afghanistan.

Our strategy in Afghanistan cannot be focused on local gains alone. In a joint press conference after their Oval Office meeting, Mr. Obama and Mr. Karzai rightly emphasized regional threats, including the Taliban in neighboring Pakistan. The Taliban in Pakistan recently claimed connection to the failed Times Square bombing in New York City. Though there are questions about the intelligence supporting this claim, there are two facts that should not be overlooked. First, the Taliban in Pakistan has publicly expressed designs on spreading violence on U.S. soil. Second, suspect Faisal Shahzad traveled back and force between Pakistan and confessed that he received bomb-making training at a militant camp in that country. This serves as a strong reminder that monitoring terrorist activities in and out of Pakistan must also be a part of our regional efforts.

Strategy for Success
My hope is that a strengthened partnership and strategy for success has come out of the discussions between Mr. Karzai and top U.S. military officials during his visit to Washington. When I spoke with Mr. Karzi during a visit to Kabul in January, I stressed that America's commitment must be met by the determination and cooperation of his government. In my roles on the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Forces Committees, I will continue to ask the hard questions that are necessary to keep this consequential partnership on track. I want to be supportive of the administration's efforts; however, the Senate should not be a rubber stamp for White House policies. We must thoughtfully consider the reports and requests from our commanders on the ground and set policies that will give our troops the right strategies and tools. I believe we can and must succeed in Afghanistan.


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