A strong American military supported by smart investments is crucial to the safety of the nation. With Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM), the 10th Congressional District is home to the third largest military installation in the United States.
JBLM, and the more than 50,000 civilian and military personnel who live and work there, will continue to play a key strategic role in the national defense in coming years. JBLM, and our military in general, must have the resources they needs to make forward-looking investments that respond to the security threats of tomorrow. These threats include:
Rogue states and terror groups continue to pose the most serious threat to our national security. The United States must continue to invest in the special training and technology necessary for our forces to stay one step ahead of these unique threats.
Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is a destabilizing threat to the region and the world. Virtually the entire international community is against Iran having a nuclear weapon. The US will play a significant role in maintaining the peace of that region and preventing Iran from developing or acquiring nuclear weapons.
Our national cyber security. In contrast to other developed countries, most notably China, the US receives poor marks in its cybersecurity readiness. This is not just a threat to our national defense, but jeopardizes our infrastructure and electrical grid, and risks destabilizing our economy through internet piracy and direct attacks on our banking system.
Bringing Our Troops Home from Afghanistan
Ten years ago we sent our troops to Afghanistan with a clear and just purpose: find those responsible for the September 11th attacks and prevent them from launching similar attacks ever again. We succeeded. Osama bin Laden is dead and his al-Qaeda network has been decimated.
Denny has called for bringing our combat troops home from Afghanistan -- sooner rather than later. That doesn't mean we're abandoning the fight against al-Qaeda or abandoning our support for the Afghan people. It is approaching our involvement in Afghanistan from a new direction that makes the most sense for our national defense, our military families and our treasury.
A Successful But Costly Mission
We've accomplished what we set out to do when we invaded Afghanistan ten years ago: Osama bin Laden is now dead and his al-Qaeda network has been largely dismantled. The Defense Department estimates that no more than 150 al-Qaeda operatives remain in Afghanistan or in bordering Pakistani tribal areas.
Our soldiers performed admirably as they have so many times before, but our mission in Afghanistan has not been without sacrifice. More than 1700 men and women have given their lives. We have spent more than half a trillion dollars on operations in the country. This victory came at a high cost to our military families and our nation's treasury.
It's Time To Come Home
With our mission fulfilled, it's now time for us to bring our troops home. 80,000 servicemembers remain in Afghanistan. 23,000 more are to be withdrawn by the end of this year with the remainder to be withdrawn by the end of 2014.
Anticipating what is going to happen in an active war zone is difficult. Under no circumstances should our withdrawal endanger our national security. However, our troops should leave Afghanistan sooner rather than later.
Following Through On Our Mission
Afghanistan still faces real problems. Al-Qaeda has a limited presence along the Afghan/Pakistani border. President Hamid Karzai's dubious 2009 re-election victory shattered confidence in the central government. Corruption is rampant and is a severe drain on the Afghan economy (roughly 20% of the nation's GDP is spent on bribes).
Despite these problems, there are signs of hope. A $1 trillion dollar mineral deposit discovered in June 2010 could -- if managed properly -- provide the backbone for a new economy not based on opium. Additionally, the Afghan National Army has become a legitimate fighting force with more than 120,000 members. They have taken the lead on most multinational operations in the country in the past three years.
The United States must remain committed to finding and eliminating the remaining al-Qaeda operatives in the region. This can be done through special forces operations like the one that killed Osama bin Laden. We must continue to provide training resources and advisors for the Afghan National Army as it continues to grow.
Finally, the United States must remain committed to supporting the Afghan people. Economic aid must be directed to support the legitimate aspects of the nascent Afghan economy. Humanitarian aid to the central government must be coupled with stringent anti-corruption measures.