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Victory in Afghanistan

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KINZINGER of Illinois. There's something that I'll personally never forget. That occurred in April, 2007. I'll get to why that is something I'll never forget in a second. That's when the majority leader, Senator Harry Reid, said of Iraq, ``I believe myself that the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and--you have to make your own decisions as to what the President knows--know this war is lost and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq.''

As in 2007, Senate Majority Leader Reid was in a rush to the exits in Iraq and a rush to declare the war had been lost. Why was that important to me? Because I was in Afghanistan at that time--or a nation by Afghanistan--getting ready to fly a KC-135 aircraft into combat in Afghanistan. As I was on the treadmill exercising, I saw what the number four most powerful guy in politics said, and I felt it in my soul. I felt anger. I knew that there was celebrating in the caves in Iraq and in the caves in Afghanistan because the United States said we were going to lose. Well, guess what? It took the brave leadership of somebody to say we will not lose in Iraq and we're on the verge of victory. We had a surge in Iraq. And today, it appears to be a more stabilizing situation, and hopefully in 10 years Iraq will be an example of democracy in the Middle East.

Last night, I heard the President say nothing of the word victory in Afghanistan but talked about how this is the beginning of the end. General McChrystal recommended to the President that to win in Afghanistan, we need 80,000 additional troops. Mr. President, at a bare minimum, we need 40,000 additional troops. The President gave 30,000. And in giving the 30,000, he immediately gave a timeline for withdrawal.

Now, I will tell you the Taliban are used to fighting for long periods of time, and they know that if they simply have to wait a couple of years, that is an encouragement to them. But I supported and support what the President was doing in Afghanistan up until last night, even though I believe he should have given the troops required for victory. But last night I saw that all the surge troops are going to be pulled out of Afghanistan, magically, by Election Day. As a military pilot and an Air National Guard pilot, I can tell you the soldiers are weary of war. The American people are weary of war. But leadership is not about saying, We're tired, we're going to quit. It's about standing up for freedom and standing against those that would destroy our way of life.

I was in Afghanistan just a month ago talking to generals on the ground who say we literally have turned a corner in Afghanistan. It is bewildering to me that yesterday we send a message that we're wrapping this thing up and it's the beginning of the end before we have seen that victory arrive. Let me ask you, do you believe last night in the President's speech that the Taliban was sad to hear what he was saying or that they were happy to hear it?

Ladies and gentlemen, just as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid couldn't have been in a bigger hurry for the exits to Iraq, he was proven wrong. So, too, if we stick this out will those that say we cannot win be proven wrong again. America has a vested interest in seeing an Afghanistan that can stand up against terrorism, that can begin to defend itself against terrorists who seek to overthrow their country, who seek to overthrow Pakistan, and can do so with limited U.S. help. That is how we begin to see victory. Or, we can just give up.

I can tell you that as a military member and the military members I've talked to, we don't want to have to be there another day. But we also don't want to come home in any condition less than total victory. Let us finish the job. Let the generals on the ground have the tools they need to finish the job. How we get good news and turn that into an immediate pullout of Afghanistan is beyond me.

Mr. President, I did not hear you once last night mention the word ``victory'' in your speech. I hope that was a needless and sad omission from your speech and did not reflect what you believe in Afghanistan. Ladies and gentlemen, we can win. America only loses when we choose to. America will win in Afghanistan.


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