By Rep Rob Andrews
When America declared war in Afghanistan, we delivered an ultimatum to Taliban leaders to either hand over those responsible for the attacks on 9/11 or we will forcefully remove them. We were correct and justified in that decision; no one can harbor terrorists without facing the consequences of war.
Our mission was to deprive al-Qaida of a safe haven from which they could launch another attack, and thanks to the men and women of America's armed forces we have largely accomplished that goal. Now, it is time to bring our troops home so they can return to their families and be honored for their success.
America is ready for a sharp troop drawdown because military operations in Afghanistan are effectively completed. We set out to stop the terrorists with two tasks in mind: eliminate al-Qaida and deny the terrorists a base of operation. Both of these objectives have been substantially accomplished.
On May 2, U.S. special forces successfully killed Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qaida and chief architect behind the 9/11 attacks. Bin Laden's death, followed by the killing of numerous other senior al-Qaida leaders this summer, has pushed the terrorist organization to the brink of collapse.
In recent months, attacks against U.S. forces have declined substantially, demonstrating that al-Qaida has been severely degraded and its foothold in Afghanistan is crippling.
Given our mission is largely completed, it's time to significantly draw down our troops because the war's cost, both in lives and dollars, is too great. At least 1,400 American soldiers were killed in combat, fighting to protect America from those who wish to tear her down. None of these troops died in vain -- our country is safer because of the sacrifices these brave men and women made. But, we should not continue to place so many of our soldiers at risk after they've achieved their objective.
Also, America cannot afford to continue paying for military operations that have already been accomplished. The war in Afghanistan is projected to cost more than $120 billion this year alone; that's nearly double what the federal government pays to educate our children. We should be spending our tax dollars to grow jobs in America and rebuild our economy here at home.
America has succeeded in bringing the Taliban to its knees but the terrorists are not completely defeated. In order to eliminate the threat of terror, there must be an environment where the Taliban cannot succeed. However, this is a job for the Afghan people -- only they have the power to establish a strong democratic government that can stand up to terrorists. The American military cannot build this environment for them. What we can do, however, is train the Afghan police to counter terrorism and help the country rebuild out of poverty so it no longer serves as a breeding ground and sanctuary for terrorism.
The war in Afghanistan is officially the longest war in American history. Oct. 7 marks the 10th anniversary of combat in Afghanistan. Our troops have fought with great bravery and they deserve our praise for their success. By crippling al-Qaida and depriving terrorists of a sanctuary, our troops have successfully protected America and made our lives safer. Let's bring them home to their loved ones.