TALIBAN RESURGENCE IN AFGHANISTAN -- (House of Representatives - January 29, 2007)
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor this evening to once again discuss the mounting problems and increasing violence by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan. My concern is that the President continues to escalate the wrong war in Iraq while the war in Afghanistan is forgotten. I fear, as do many others, if the United States and NATO do not prioritize Afghanistan, the Taliban will reach a level of strength it has not had since prior to the inception of the United States mission in Afghanistan. This could lead to an impending offensive by the Taliban in Afghanistan which would drastically undermine the United States mission in this war-torn nation.
Over the weekend, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and other Members of the House leadership visited Afghanistan and Pakistan on a fact-finding mission in order to witness first hand the escalating problems facing those countries.
I was glad to see that the Speaker coupled her trip to Iraq with a visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Speaker Pelosi's trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan comes as President Bush announces his plan to ask Congress for $10.6 billion in aid for Afghanistan.
$8.6 billion of this aid money will go towards training and equipping Afghan security forces, as well as increasing the size of Afghanistan's national army. The remaining $2 billion will be provided for investment in Afghani infrastructure.
Mr. Speaker, the President has stated that he will make a formal request for these funds next month, and I am pleased to see that he is finally realizing that the threat of the Taliban and al Qaeda remains in Afghanistan and that we need to do more.
The ongoing war on terror should focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan, not on Iraq. The United States must be committed to fighting terrorism in those areas in order to protect our country because that is where the war on terrorism and the attacks on our country began.
Earlier this month, Democrats took a significant step toward this goal by passing H.R. 1 which implemented the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission. Included in this bill was language that would end U.S. military assistance and arms sales licensing to Pakistan in the 2008 fiscal year unless Pakistani President Musharraf certifies that the Islamabad government is making all possible efforts to end Taliban activities on Pakistani soil.
It seems that President Musharraf is paying the United States lip service by claiming to be supportive of the global war on terror, yet failing to take action against Taliban fighters that have set up training camps in the western region of his country. It is my hope that, coupled with international pressure, the language in H.R. 1 will convince President Musharraf to take immediate action against the Taliban militants in his country.
Mr. Speaker, while the Taliban continues to gain strength in Afghanistan and western Pakistan, it has also been leading an effort to win support of the people of Afghanistan by opening its own schools or madrasas in southern Afghanistan. The intentions of the Taliban are obviously to distract from their regime of terror, not to provide educational opportunities for the children of Afghanistan. Last year alone, the Taliban destroyed 200 schools and killed 20 teachers. It is more likely that the Taliban will use these madrasas not only to trick the people of Afghanistan into believing that they are advocating the expansion of education but also to recruit new Taliban fighters.
This is all part of the al Qaeda's growing propaganda operation. As Sahab, the TV production arm of al Qaeda, last year produced 58 videos, more than tripling its number from 2005, it is clear that the Taliban and al Qaeda are regrouping and working hard to win over the people of Afghanistan.
Mr. Speaker, it is very important for the United States to continue to funnel resources into Afghanistan. We must also ensure that none of our troops in Afghanistan are redeployed to bolster the President's plan to escalate the war in Iraq. We cannot let ourselves forget where the real war on terror started and continues to this day.