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Op-Ed: The Need To Succeed In Afghanistan


Location: Washington, D.C.

The brave men and women in uniform -- along Wisconsin's thousands of military families -- continue to make tremendous sacrifices in defense of our freedom and security. In response to the brutal terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States has committed to defeat those responsible for these acts of war. As in the past, Americans have met this challenge to our freedom and independence with courage and resolve. We owe a debt of gratitude to our armed forces and their families for their valiant efforts in keeping America safe.

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama renewed our commitment to this effort. In a much-anticipated speech at West Point, the President argued, "It is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan." The goal of our military efforts, the commander-in-chief reminded us on Tuesday, is to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies.

Our President needs to be supported in his effort regardless of party, and I hope that this surge of 30,000 forces will be sufficient to secure victory in Afghanistan. General Stanley McChrystal, in a comprehensive assessment issued several months ago, articulated the deteriorating situation on the ground. McChrystal outlined a counterinsurgency strategy that included the deployment of 40,000 U.S. forces and a doubling of Afghan military forces. I read closely McChrystal's report, in which he emphasized a new approach with respect to strategy, resources, and legitimacy -- and took to heart the consequences of defeat.

The President deserves credit for adopting an urgently needed counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. I also believe his decision to set forth political and military benchmarks will paint a clearer picture of our goals in Afghanistan and help measure our progress toward those goals.

I am deeply troubled by the President's decision to publically announce a time limit dictating troop withdrawal. It is counterproductive to give insurgents and terrorists troop withdrawal dates to circle on their calendar. By setting dates for military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the President's announcement may discourage wary Afghans citizens from working with our troops and Afghan security forces to quell the violence there.

Another issue attracting attention in this debate is the cost of this surge in forces. Many leading Members of Congress are calling for a "war tax" to finance our efforts in Afghanistan.

I am opposed to massive new tax hikes on job creators as we face double-digit unemployment and continued economic hardships. I've long argued that Congress ought to budget for wars and ensure that the brave men and women in harm's way are fully resourced, rather than rely on ad hoc spending bills outside of the budget process. To the extent we can predict what will be needed in Iraq and Afghanistan, we should prioritize how Congress currently spends Americans' hard-earned tax dollars.

Despite a $1.4 trillion deficit, the House Appropriations Committee has passed double-digit spending increases in 11 non-defense discretionary spending bills this past year. This is on top of a trillion-dollar "stimulus" spending bill, a trillion-dollar health care overhaul, and massive increases in the size and scope of the federal government. The selective calls for budget discipline ring hollow, arising only when it comes to funding our troops -- with tax increases as their only remedy. Responsible budgeting, rather than job-killing tax hikes, is how we ought to provide the necessary resources for the defense of our nation -- most critically for the brave Americans serving overseas.

The challenges we face as a nation cannot be understated and our resolve continues to be tested -- from the need for job creation in Southern Wisconsin and sustained economic growth to the existential threat posed by terrorists seeking to harm American citizens and destroy our way of life. I respect President Obama for his strategic action for refusing to abandon this critical struggle against this serious threat. I will continue to support every effort to give our troops the resources they need to complete their mission and return home to their families as soon as possible.

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