Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today released the following statement regarding her visit to Afghanistan on April 4-5, 2013. She visited the country with a Congressional delegation in order to get an on-the-ground assessment of the overall coalition force structure posture, status of retrograde, capabilities of the Afghan forces, and challenges we face in the troop drawdown.
"As our drawdown in Afghanistan continues, American military and civilian personnel there have made great progress in turning over responsibility for security to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The ANSF are now leading a majority of security operations and have demonstrated confidence and clear capabilities in doing so. I have said repeatedly, a stable Afghanistan can only be achieved by the Afghan people.
"I was so grateful to visit with some of our homegrown heroes from Hawai"i, and delivered a little taste of home with some toffee treats, Big Island Cookies and Kona coffee. Their morale was high as we talked story about the work they do, and about how their families were faring at home. I thank all of our troops and their families for their selfless service and look forward to welcoming them back. Our service members have conducted themselves professionally and sacrificed greatly. It is time for them to come home.
"The drawdown is essential as we look at our limited resources, and assess the direct and imminent threats that face us as a country today. As North Korea continues to build its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities, we must take greater steps to ensure we have the resources available and in place to defend against and deter an attack. Hawai"i has been placed directly in the crosshairs of North Korea by Kim Jong-un's belligerent threats against the United States and our assets.
"It is clear that more resources must be reallocated to deal with the direct threats and instability on the Korean peninsula. In 2012, we spent $111.1 billion in Afghanistan alone, while only $9.7 billion was allocated for missile defense. Next year, the proposed missile defense budget has actually been cut to $9.16 billion. Over the years, North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities have only increased. This is not a threat that will go away. Now is not the time to be cutting our missile security budget. As our country shifts focus to Asia and the Pacific, we need to take seriously the regimes that threaten us today and take appropriate steps to ensure the safety and security of the American people."
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard met with the International Security Assistance Force Commander General Joseph Dunford and U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham in Kabul. She also visited Bagram Air Force Base, and Forward Operating Base Shank in Logar Province. Joining her on the trip were Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL), Chair of Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Nuclear, and Missile Defense, and Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI).