OUR U.S. MILITARY SUCCESSES IN AFGHANISTAN -- (House of Representatives - April 19, 2005)
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Fortenberry). Pursuant to the order of the House of January 4, 2005, the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen) is recognized during morning hour debates for 5 minutes.
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to highlight the accomplishments that we have been able to achieve in Afghanistan, thanks to the dedicated and courageous service of our men and women in uniform. These Marines, sailors, airmen, and soldiers exemplify the best of what our country has to offer. By risking, and sometimes giving, their lives, they have allowed the 30 million people of Afghanistan to live in peace and prosperity, free from the fear and tyranny of the Taliban.
By liberating Afghanistan, our fighting men and women also ensured that al Qaeda would no longer be allowed to operate with impunity in what was then a failed state. In a brilliantly waged campaign, our Special Forces brought the fight to our enemies. By utilizing local resistance forces and at times even charging into battle on horseback, they liberated this beautiful country from a menacing dictatorship.
What the Afghans, with the help of the U.S. and our Coalition forces, were subsequently able to achieve is nothing less than a miracle. On October 9, 2004, barely less than 2 years since the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan held the first democratic elections in its history, overwhelmingly electing Hamid Karzai as its President. Afghanistan is now scheduled to hold another election on September 18 to select its first parliament.
These two elections, coming less than a year apart, are even more impressive given that this country has been at war for the better part of the last 30 years. First, fighting a Soviet invasion, and later, a civil war between the different mujahideen.
I could not find better words than those of a reporter of the Associated Press to describe the presidential election in Afghanistan when he wrote: ``After a generation of conflict, Afghans are slowly emerging from darkness. In the afterglow of last fall's presidential election, there is hope in Kabul.''
In this country of 30 million people, more than 10 million registered to vote, 41 percent of them women, these elections were monitored by more than 5,400 independent observers from groups such as the EU, the OSCE, the U.S., and the U.N., giving further validity to these historic elections.
The hard work of our men and women in uniform does not stop there. They have worked closely with our allies to train a national Afghan army so that their people and their hard-fought democracy can be protected. Almost 19,000 soldiers now serve in the Afghan national army with another 3,400 being trained by our troops. These soldiers are being deployed to all corners of the country.
The United States has also trained more than 25,000 police officers, and other countries have assisted as well. Germany, for example, has trained nearly 6,000 border and national police. Our U.S. Armed Forces have also trained 120 judges, lawyers, and court personnel. Ensuring the rule of law that it would be protected in this nation that has known only war and tyranny is miraculous.
The U.S. military has also helped to rehabilitate more than 7,500 canals, underground irrigation tunnels, reservoirs, and dams to increase agricultural output in this arid country. These policies have resulted in an 82 percent increase in wheat production.
Our U.S. military forces were also able to assist in the demining and paving of the very important Kabul-Kandahar highway, ahead of schedule, as well as rehabilitating 74 bridges and tunnels.
These accomplishments have led to a 30 percent growth in the Afghan economy from 2002 to 2003 and an estimated 16 percent growth from 2003 to 2004. These policies have led to 2.4 million refugees returning to Afghanistan from neighboring countries after many years of being displaced by war. Another 600,000 internally displaced individuals have also been able to return home.
Mr. Speaker, I could stand before this body for hours to speak about our success in Afghanistan and the positive difference that our U.S. military troops have made in this country. I understand their sacrifices and those of their families. My own husband, retired Lieutenant Dexter Lehtinen, was a platoon leader in Vietnam until a grenade almost took his life. The scars on his face are constant reminders of the price so many Americans have paid for our freedom and the price that so many more continue to pay.
As my stepson, Aviator First Lieutenant Douglas Lehtinen, prepares to deploy Iraq, I cannot help but think about the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. While nothing can replace those who were lost and although the scars will never disappear, those acts of bravery have not been in vain.
May God bless our men and women in uniform and may God bless America.