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Public Statements

Engaging Afghanistan Peacefully, Not Forcibly

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Speaker, it is February 29, a date that exists only once every 4 years, and yet this is the third February 29, the third leap day, that we've been at war in Afghanistan.

I have my granddaughter here with me. She's 8 years old. She's not lived in the United States when we were not at war.

Last week in particular, we were exposed to the grave dangers and the fundamental flaws of our Afghanistan strategy. The week started with the burning, accidentally, of several copies of the Koran by U.S. troops. That sparked days of violence and protests throughout the country. Angry Afghanis tried to storm U.N. compounds and other Western installations.

At our largest military base, thousands, including many who worked at the base, gathered to throw rocks and shout ``Death to America.'' Days later came the killing of two NATO soldiers, shot in the back of the head while working at their desks inside the Afghan interior ministry. The killer was apparently a Taliban insurgent who had infiltrated the government security forces and penetrated what is supposed to be one of the most secure buildings in Kabul.

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that police officers, the ones we are supporting and training to keep militants at bay, are losing patience with our continued military occupation of their country. One of them told The Washington Post:

Afghans and the world's Muslims should rise against the foreigners. We have no patience left. We will attack the military foreign people.

In response to all of this, General John Allen has ordered the removal of all NATO personnel from Afghan government ministries in and around Kabul. Out in the field, some U.S. soldiers have been instructed not to engage too directly with Afghan security forces, even though the training of these forces is at the heart of our very mission in Afghanistan.

Mr. Speaker, can there be any doubt, given what has happened over the last week or so and the last 10 years, that our 10-year military occupation is losing and not winning over there? The hearts and the minds of the Afghanis have been lost to the United States.

The amazing thing is there is talk that the recent unrest might delay the withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan. If anything, we need to accelerate that withdrawal. It's this war that has sewn the seeds of resentment and mistrust. It's this war that has increased instability and strengthened the insurgency. It's this war that is fraying the partnership and heightening the tension.

Mr. Speaker, what if we engaged Afghanistan in a different way--peacefully, rather than forcibly, not in war? What if we sent--at a fraction of the cost and pennies on the dollar, I might add--what if we sent civilian experts to help rebuild Afghanistan and invest in its people?

What if we focused on humanitarian aid instead of military aggression? That's the SMART Security philosophy that I've been advocating for many years now.

I'm convinced that such an approach would show the way to greater peace, greater security and prosperity in Afghanistan. We can't begin to do this soon enough. Despite everything that's happened--not just this past week but over the last decade--the Pentagon continues to tell us the Afghanistan strategy is sound and it is succeeding. Do they think we're not paying attention?

It couldn't be clearer that what we're doing isn't working. It's time for SMART Security, Mr. Speaker. It's time to bring our troops home, and the time is now.


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