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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. PELOSI. I thank the gentleman for yielding and thank him for his leadership and working with Congressman Walter Jones on this bipartisan amendment, which has been brought to the floor. They have worked again in a bipartisan way, in a patriotic way, to ensure that U.S. troops are brought home from Afghanistan safely and expeditiously.

Listening to the debate, it's interesting because I don't know that we are that far apart because we all want to ensure the national security of our country. We all respect our men and women in uniform and the job that they are doing to keep us the land of the free and the home of the brave.

We respect them when they come home as our veterans, but we have to know that involvement of nearly 10 years has serious consequences for our country.

I told the President of Afghanistan on my recent visit this spring that each time I go there I say the American people are growing tired of war; we are weary of war. We went into Afghanistan in the fall of 2001. For about 7 years, there was no plan. There was no plan on how we would execute what we went to do and how we would leave.

When President Obama became President, many of us who were eager to bring our troops home gave him a chance to put forth a plan, which he did, which calls for the drawdown of troops in July 2011, and drawing down more completely by 2014.

President Obama himself had said earlier this month, I have already made a commitment that starting in July of this year we are drawing down troops and we are transitioning. We are training Afghan forces so they can start securing their own country.

The President went on to say we don't need to have a perpetual footprint of the size we have now. So, therefore, I think it's really important for us to know what this amendment does that I think reflects the mood of the American people.

It requires within 60 days of enactment, a plan and time frame for the accelerated transition of military and security operations to the Government of Afghanistan; within 60 days of enactment, a plan and time frame for negotiations leading to a political solution and reconciliation in Afghanistan, and within 90 days of enactment, a National Intelligence Estimate on leadership, location and capabilities of al Qaeda and affiliated networks and cells.

Who can be against that? Who can be against that? We are talking about 60 days a plan for transition, and 60 days a plan for negotiations.

I appreciate the efforts of this amendment, as it underscores the importance of having a plan and a time frame for a transition of responsibility, a transition of responsibility for security and stability to the Afghans so that we can bring our troops home.

The National Intelligence Estimate on al Qaeda that is called for in the plan will also help ensure our policymakers that they have updated information on the threat posed by al Qaeda and its affiliates who remain a threat even following the death of Osama bin Laden. Careful intelligence analysis is essential to keeping the American people safe.

So as I salute our men and women in uniform, I also want to salute our men and women in the intelligence community who are an important part of keeping the American people safe. I commend them and CIA Director Panetta for his leadership in the Osama bin Laden operation.

But back to the specific point of this amendment. I have gone to Afghanistan year after year after year, never thinking that we would be engaged in the longest war in America's history. The first 7 years, not even a plan; but now the President has put into motion how we make judgments about how we stay and how we leave.

If you visit the women in Afghanistan, as many women in the Congress have done and some of our male colleagues as well, they will tell you whether you are talking to educated women in Kabul, but really more relevant to me, poor, poor women in the provinces, they are all saying the same thing.

I visited a group of women in the province of Zabul, just as I have visited a number of provinces and spoken to the women across Afghanistan. The women in Zabul said we really want to educate our daughters, we want to have access to health care clinics and the rest, but we can't have that until we have security, and we can't have security until we end corruption.

There are many things going on in Afghanistan that must change. There will be a better chance for change if we make an investment in the civilian side of this transition, whether it's diplomacy, whether it's part of the construction. They tell me not to say reconstruction because not much was there before. Construction there includes building schools. We visited little schools and schools in different parts of Afghanistan. It's very encouraging.

Our troops know that we have to leave, that we have to transition out. But as I told President Karzai also, we didn't come here, and we are not staying here 10 years so that when we leave women return to the subjugated position they were in under the Taliban.

So the answer to that is women must be at the table when you have the negotiations for reconciliation of the leadership of the Taliban, and reintegration of rank-and-file members of the Taliban. As we move toward more stability in Afghanistan, women must play a role. Women in America, women throughout the world care about how this all turns out there.

So here we are, almost 10 years later in a situation where we just want to have some management of this issue.

Let's have a plan for how negotiations will take place. Let's have a plan after we see the National Intelligence Estimate based on what the al Qaeda threat is.

This is a very wise amendment. I thank Mr. McGovern and Mr. Jones for how they put it together because it is very reasonable. It has a goal in sight. It has a reasonable approach as to how we get there. But make no mistake: in overwhelming numbers, the American people think we have done our job there in terms of helping the Afghan people. Our purpose there was to protect the American people. We can do both by focusing more on the civilian side of governance issues and how Afghanistan is governed on anti-corruption issues. And our initiatives that I have seen there on this recent trip are an improvement over the past, by training the national security forces of Afghanistan, be it police or the military, so they can maintain their own security, and by diplomatically enlisting other countries in the region because they all have a vested interest in the stability of Afghanistan.

But an open-ended, unending war there, which is costly but is nothing compared to the cost of the loss of our young men and women, that's our first and foremost concern. But there is also the cost in dollars, the cost in opportunity and in military strength. This involvement and engagement in Afghanistan is not strengthening our military.

So Americans are paying a big price. We want to make sure we are getting a return on that investment, and time is a very important factor. It's time for our troops to come home. And I thank Mr. McGovern and Mr. Jones for their leadership.

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