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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GARAMENDI. Madam Chair, after more than a decade of war, it is time to accelerate our drawdown of troops in Afghanistan and bring this war to a close.

We've sent our brave servicemen and -women to Afghanistan to eliminate the international terrorists who would do us harm. They have successfully executed this mission with phenomenal dedication and capacity: they have driven al Qaeda from Afghanistan, destroyed their training facilities, killed or captured most of their top leaders. Under President Obama's decisive leadership and thanks to the courage and competency of our special forces, the 9/11 mastermind--Osama bin Laden--has met his just end.

The President has outlined a plan for winding down this war, and I support drawing down our military presence in Afghanistan even more quickly than the President has suggested. We should welcome our troops back as heroes and ensure they receive the support and care that is due when they return.

Our military servicemembers and their families have borne and continue to bear far more than their share of the burden of this war. I am a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and I represent the 10th District of California, which is home to Travis Air Force Base--the largest Air Mobility Command unit in the Air Force. Nearby in Marysville, California, is Beale Air Force Base, which is the leader in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Together, 16,000 servicemembers across the active duty National Guard and Reserves, as well as over 75,000 veterans, live in my district and in the surrounding area. These are the people who are disproportionately bearing the cost of this war.

As their Representative, I owe it to them to make sure that we do not ask of them any more than is absolutely necessary in order to ensure America's national security. But the majority here in this House is determined to prevent even a serious debate about ending the war in Afghanistan. They have inserted language into the National Defense Authorization Act that would actually slow down the withdrawal of U.S. forces and keep nearly 70,000 troops in Afghanistan until at least 2015.

When the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee tried to offer an amendment to replace this provision, the majority said it was out of order. When a bipartisan group of Members of Congress joined together on an amendment replacing this provision, the majority blocked that amendment. This is the longest war in America's history, claiming thousands of lives and costing hundreds of billions of dollars, and the majority simply doesn't want to talk about it.

We must talk about this war. We must take time to think deeply about the sacrifices of those who are serving and who have served. To date, 1,875 of our military servicemembers have been killed in Afghanistan, leaving thousands more to endure the unimaginable grief of the loss of a loved one. 15,322 of our troops have been wounded seriously, suffering life-altering injuries. Not included in that number are those with psychological wounds--invisible but no less devastating. We have spent a half a trillion taxpayer dollars on the war in Afghanistan, and this legislation would allocate $88 billion more to be spent in this year alone.

There are some who would continue this war indefinitely. They oppose the fixed timeline for ending combat operations and for bringing our troops home. They oppose any concrete plans for transitioning full responsibility for Afghanistan's security as quickly as possible. Even worse, they would have American troops continuing to fight against a domestic insurgency in Afghanistan, and they think it's America's job to defeat those armed factions that threaten the Karzai Government, which is, perhaps, the most corrupt government in this world. In fact, they have inserted language into this bill that says the U.S. objective in Afghanistan is to defend the Karzai Government against the Taliban. They also have an interest in American troops defeating the Haqqani Network and any other faction that is taking on the Karzai Government, involving us in a multisided civil war.

It was never the American mission in Afghanistan, nor should it be. As President Obama clearly said last week, ``Our goal is to destroy Al Qaeda.'' We began a military operation in Afghanistan with a very clear reason. It's time for us to end this war and bring our troops home.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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