Like you, I understand the need to invest in a 21st century military to maintain our conventional advantage while increasing our capacity to defeat the threats of tomorrow. By balancing the different elements of national power, we will not continue to push the burden onto our military alone, nor leave dormant any aspect of the full arsenal of American capability when it comes to keeping the people of America safe.
The United States of America has the finest military in the world and our country's greatest military asset is the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States. When we do send our men and women into harm's way, we must ensure that our defense and military policies reflect their sacrifice, ensuring that our troops have the resources, support and equipment they need to protect themselves and fulfill their mission. When our troops return home, we must provide them with top notch medical treatment, support for their families and opportunities for education and workforce advancement.
Yet, we must recognize that America's strength and influence abroad begins with the steps we take at home. We must regrow our economy and put Americans back to work. We must educate our children, ensuring they are able to compete in a time when knowledge is capital and the marketplace is global. We must pursue a strategy of national renewal with American innovation as the foundation of American power.
While President Obama has responsibly brought our combat commitment in Iraq to a responsible conclusion, seven years of combat commitments there unfortunately distracted us from Afghanistan and from bringing Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden--those who attacked us on September 11, 2001--to justice. During that time, pro-Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters have not only aggressively re-established control of parts of Afghanistan, but they have also taken firm root in Pakistan, an unstable--and, more importantly, a nuclear-armed--country. To be sure, failing in Afghanistan also means failing in Pakistan. For our own national security, and for our allies, failure is not an option.
Unlike failed past efforts to occupy Afghanistan by Britain and Russia, our strategy is more focused. The effort in Afghanistan is still winnable, but only if we fully commit the necessary leadership, strategy, and resources to the cause. Under President Obama's leadership, we are now doing that. I believe in our core mission there: to disrupt, defeat, and dismantle al Qaeda and prevent their return to controlling Afghanistan.
With combat operations ended in Iraq, we can begin repairing the deep wounds to our readiness that war inflicted. I trust that, going forward, President Obama will continue to use our troops wisely, and they he would deploy them in new regions only as a last resort. Military action that endangers our troops and wreaks havoc on our economy must be initiated only after all diplomatic options have been exhausted, when it serves a compelling national interest or is used to defend one of our allies, and when there is a clear plan for success, including an exit strategy.
President Obama and the 112th Congress must continue to invest significant resources to restoring equipment our soldiers need to protect them in battle and prevail in combat. Another critical part of enhancing our military readiness is ensuring that we have the best and brightest soldiers and translators on our battlefields and in our command centers, which is why I supported and voted for the repeal of the military's discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell' military policy. At a time when we need more specialized forces and Arabic and Farsi translators than ever before, discharging these patriotic Americans not only violates our nation's core values of equal protection, but it is ultimately counterproductive to our national security.