October 7, 2011 marked the 10-year anniversary of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. This anniversary provides a time to reflect on what we have accomplished, and what our mission there should be as we move forward.
I first want to thank our troops for their service. No one has sacrificed more than our men and women in uniform and their families these past 10 years.
During my time in Congress, I have had opportunities to visit the combat zones in the Middle East. Most recently this spring I traveled to Afghanistan with House Speaker John Boehner. While in the region we had the opportunity to visit with our troops, some of whom hail from Oklahoma. Over 2,300 soldiers from the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team are currently serving in Afghanistan. They are the pride of Oklahoma, and I want to thank each of them and their family members for their sacrifice.
Throughout my entire career in Congress, I have been an advocate for our soldiers and our veterans. I will continue that effort, but part of honoring this commitment is to provide a long-term strategy which will carry forward their sacrifice. As this conflict enters a new decade, now is the time to reevaluate our involvement and strategy.
When we first invaded in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks, our goals were clear: remove the Taliban regime from power, and capture or kill Osama bin Laden. We soon accomplished the first goal of ousting the Taliban, by 2004 Afghanistan had its first democratic elections, and we recently killed bin Laden.
But still, we continue to pour billions of dollars into the war. Over the past 10 years, we have spent over $468 billion. At a time when we are facing record high deficits at home, this is unsustainable. During my visit to Afghanistan, I couldn't help but recognize that while we are rebuilding its roads, bridges and schools, our infrastructure in America is crumbling.
It is time to reduce our involvement in Afghanistan. However, this does not mean we have to abandon the mission. Instead, it means we must adjust our strategy.
Bin Laden was taken out with a targeted strike by our Special Forces. This mission was successful due to careful intelligence collection, including the use of satellite reconnaissance and unmanned aerial vehicles. Our boots on the ground have laid the foundation for this kind of warfare, which can be accomplished through these types of tactics. We can continue to disrupt and dismantle al Qaeda in a way that is more efficient, with less soldiers and a reduced financial commitment.
We need to fight a smarter war. Instead of spending more money to develop a foreign nation, we should invest these resources at home to rebuild our own economy and infrastructure. This will benefit communities across America, including our own in eastern Oklahoma.
Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition and serves on the Natural Resources Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.