On September 11th, the lives of over three thousand innocent people were taken in senseless acts of terror. Since then, thousands of brave men and women of our military have gone to the far corners of the world to defend the very freedoms that were attacked that day. Our troops stationed abroad as part of the international coalition fighting the Global War on Terror include many brave soldiers from the Third District. These troops, along with the other units that have been activated in Arkansas, are making our state proud as they defend the ideals that make our nation great.
Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom both play unique and key roles in the Global War on Terror. While the fight in Afghanistan continues to present its share of challenges, we have had many victories there and continue to keep our nations enemies on the defensive. In Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom has led to the overthrow of a notorious regime that tortured and massacred its own people, refused to comply with United Nations resolutions and international demands for weapons inspections and to stop providing safe havens to terrorists. The improvement we have witnessed recently in Iraq represents marked progress in the Global War Terror and brings us one step closer to eradicating terrorism establishing another democratic ally in the region.
Both these missions are far from over, and the War on Terror is sure to continue until terrorists are no longer a threat to our security. I stand with my colleagues in Congress, who are united in this cause and I will support President Obama's efforts to ensure the horrors of September 11th never happen again. I am committed to providing the president with all the resources he needs to win the Global War on Terror and to protect our nation, its principles and ideals. I am extremely proud or our military and I will continue to support the brave men and women who are valiantly fighting to defend freedom and our way of life.
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Thanks to the brave men and women in our armed forces, the Hussein regime that once terrorized Iraq is no longer in control of that country. In fact, most members of that regime have been captured, killed or have turned themselves into coalition forces, and have been brought to justice. This includes Saddam Hussein, the tyrant that ruled Iraq with an iron fist for over 25 years. Saddam Hussein is no longer filling mass graves. He is no longer torturing and terrorizing the people of Iraq. He is no longer holding the Iraqi people in a state of fear, violating UN resolutions regarding weapons inspections, nor is he harboring terrorists. In fact, the Iraqi people now have control their own country and their own destiny.
The Iraqi people have made significant political progress as well. The Iraqi Parliament has passed important; election, de-Baathification, pension, budget, and amnesty laws, and the Iraqi Government has met sixteen of eighteen benchmarks while continuing to compromise on others including oil revenue sharing agreements and militia disarmament. These gains are a testament to the hard work and sacrifices of the men and women in uniform who have participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terror. General Petraeus has noted that these gains are reversible and we should not hastily withdraw our troops and jeopardize the gains we have made on the ground.
I have visited Iraq many times since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom and have taken many opportunities to visit with our troops to thank them for their courageous service and the improved infrastructure in the country. I continue to oppose proposals for an immediate and precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces because I believe the negative consequences for the U.S. would be significant. Leaving behind an Iraqi government that is unable to protect itself leaves open the strong possibility of great instability in the region that would undoubtedly be exploited by those hostile to the U.S., including Al Qaeda, Iran and Syria. The scenarios resulting from such circumstances could be highly problematic for the people of the U.S. and many other nations. Although there have been mistakes regarding the management of the Operation Iraqi Freedom, we must assess the situation in its current form. In order to secure the successes that have come from the sacrifices of so many members or our Armed Forces, we must withdraw in a proper manner and leave the area with stability.
I would like to see the Iraqi government continue to take more responsibility for the future of their nation both defensively and financially. The good news is they are continuing to show a willingness to do so and cooperate with the new administration. It is my hope that violence in Iraq continues to decline and that the Iraqi Defense Forces reach a point of self sufficiency that allows our troops to return home safely as soon as possible. The Iraqi people have been liberated by our troops and our allies, who are now helping them build a stable, democratic society of their own. Once this mission has been accomplished, we will leave the region a safer and better place for the Iraqi people and the world.
I will continue to support the mission in Iraq as a part of the Global War on Terror. As long as our men and women in uniform are in harm's way, I am committed to providing them with all of the resources and tools they need to accomplish their mission and return home safely. Until they do, let us keep them and their families in our thoughts and prayers.
Operation Enduring Freedom
The situation with Afghanistan is currently one of the most pressing diplomatic challenges we face in our world today, and while I believe that the solution is not solely a military one, I do believe there is an appropriate role for our military to play in Afghanistan as part of the Global War on Terror. The presence of our military in Afghanistan enables us to protect the population from violent extremists and afford our allies the time and security to train and implement their own military and police forces. With the cooperation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces, Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) continues working to create peace in Afghanistan by undermining terrorist strongholds and creating a secure environment for the people of Afghanistan since October of 2001.
The continued violent activities of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in that country have sought to foment anti-American sentiment while protecting those who seek to plan attacks against innocents in the region and the western world. However, this violence perpetrated by Islamic extremists against the innocent citizens of the region creates something else as well. It nurtures a backlash against the tyrannical and intolerant regimes who have dominated the region for ages. Currently, I continue to have faith and confidence in General David Petraeus (Commander of U.S. Central Command) to take a pragmatic approach to the military situation there, as he has always done in the past.
I very much support our role in the Global War on Terror and am proud of the efforts of our many service men and women in the Middle East. With a new Commander-in-Chief, discussion has been refreshed regarding Operation Enduring Freedom and our efforts in Afghanistan. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and top commanders on the ground in Afghanistan agree that we need more troops to train the Afghan Army and police forces. To win the Global War on Terror we must also focus on international investments dedicated towards Afghanistan's infrastructure, fostering alternative livelihoods for Afghanistan nationals, and provide our Armed Forces with the resources they need to accomplish the mission and achieve a lasting peace. Solutions will not be simple or painless, but our actions must be based upon facts on the ground rather than the political atmosphere at home. Big decisions need to be made, including the procurement and implementation of new weapons systems in light of our continued economic struggle. However, the most important goal should be a unity of purpose and efforts between coalition forces and the Afghan people to confront those who seek to undermine freedom, peace, and justice throughout the world.
I have visited the Middle East multiple times since 2001 and have taken many opportunities to visit with our troops, thanking them for their courageous service and their efforts to create peace and improve the infrastructure in those countries. Neglecting to work with a government that is unable to protect itself leaves open the strong possibility of great instability in the region that would undoubtedly be exploited by those hostile to the U.S., including Al Qaeda and Iran.
Like many Americans, I would like to see the Afghan government take responsibility for their future, free from the reign of terrorist and extremist organizations. As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee I am committed to working with my colleagues in Congress and the Obama administration to ensure that our efforts to eliminate terrorist safe havens in the region are successful.