In January of 2008, I traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan to learn more about the medical care that soldiers receive when they are injured in battle. I met with General David Petraeus, then commander of the U.S. forces in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. I also met soldiers from southern Minnesota and saw firsthand that the U.S. Armed Forces are performing their mission excellently.
I opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and I continue to believe our military engagement there must be brought to a responsible conclusion. The courageous men and women of the United States Armed Forces have served admirably, and I am proud of them. With the improved security and the recent drawdown of U.S. combat forces in Iraq, the Iraqi people have been given a golden opportunity, paid for by the service and, in many cases, the lives of our military members. The time is now for the Iraqi government to take advantage of this opportunity and provide security and prosperity for its people.
Iraq must not become a dependent state that drains needed American resources -- resources we need for Americans struggling in these tough economic times and for our real, most fundamental national security priorities. The Iraqi government must continue to make political progress and form a coalition government as soon as possible to capitalize on the recent peace. It is now up to the Iraqis to determine their own future.
As a 24-year veteran of the Army National Guard, I emphatically believe in the value of open and honest debate about the most solemn act a democracy undertakes, using its military in an armed conflict. Unlike the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan was not a war of choice. It has been a war forced upon us by the terrible attacks on 9/11 and reinforced by the subsequent attacks on innocent civilians in nations across the world.
The war in Afghanistan should never have gone on this long, and it likely would not have had the Bush Administration not decided to shift resources to an unnecessary conflict in Iraq.
Last year, the Obama Administration carried out an extensive review of our policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the President announced a new strategy in December 2009 from West Point. I believe that process was important to determining our long term goals in the region.
In general, I support the President's overall strategy for the region, but I have concerns over the details of its execution. The culture, terrain, and politics of Afghanistan present extreme challenges to our counterinsurgency strategy, and I spent the last year investigating the U.S. approach to carrying out the President's plan. Our troops and diplomats deserve to have a plan that is fully synchronized and incorporates our military, diplomatic, and developmental actions within the entire region.
In the town hall meetings I held on Afghanistan, I heard from many southern Minnesotans who have important questions, and I took these concerns to the President in a letter I wrote in December 2009 . Since then, I have received candid briefings from the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Department of State on the condition of the Afghanistan/Pakistan region and U.S. actions in that region. Our military service members and diplomats are doing a great job, but there is still a long way to go in Afghanistan.
I will remain vigilant in working to ensure that this time we get our Afghanistan and Pakistan policies right. It is simply too important to our national security to let the region once again become a safe haven for terrorists who would mount mass attacks on America and our allies.