Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) issued the following statement on the 10th Anniversary of American military engagement in Afghanistan. Rep. Engel is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"The heady days of American forces and the Northern Alliance overthrowing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and quickly stabilizing the country are long gone. This situation has become a seemingly endless slog that more and more resembles a civil war.
"Our initial involvement in Afghanistan was the right thing to do. Its government sheltered a terrorist organization that directly attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, killing almost 3,000 people.
"However, instead of finishing the job in Afghanistan, America got sidetracked into Iraq based on spurious information about non-existent weapons of mass destruction. We are still in Iraq, and we are still in Afghanistan. As each day passes, more Iraqis and Afghanis ask why we are still there. The American people have been asking the same question. I can't help but believe that if the Bush Administration never attacked Iraq, the war in Afghanistan would have been won long ago, and our country would be $1 trillion less in debt.
"The two conflicts are both a drain on our brave fighting forces, and our national economy. Our armed forces suffer from the endless fighting and the inability of the national governments to govern effectively. Worse yet, most of the world's opium still come from Afghanistan.
"I welcomed President Obama's plan to withdraw our forces from Afghanistan - 10,000 by the end of this year, and another 23,000 by the end of next summer. Afghan President Karzai must understand that the U.S. cannot prop up his country indefinitely. This does not mean we cannot continue economic and diplomatic aid, and that we won't take action against terrorist threats, but America's combat role must end soon.
"Our original mission, to cripple al Qaeda, has been largely successful, and the group's affiliates have moved to Yemen and North Africa. We no longer need massive forces to hunt and kill al Qaeda; intelligence, SEAL teams, and drones have been more than sufficient. President Obama deserves great credit for how he has successfully taken the fight to Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants. Today, bin Laden is dead, as are many of his murderous followers, many of whom were found outside of Afghanistan. Our efforts against the 9-11 criminals have evolved, and it is time for our involvement to evolve as well.
"This war has already been extremely costly -- in lives and dollars -- and it is time to move on. I applaud President Obama for bringing a more effective strategy to our campaign against the terrorists, and for moving forward with withdrawal, but I urge him to complete this process more quickly."