Mr. WELCH. Mr. Speaker, on February 1 of this year, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that American forces would step back from a combat role in Afghanistan as early as mid-2013. This is a year faster than had been announced only months previously. He also added that U.S. troops would move into an advise-and-assist role to Afghanistan security forces. I know that most everyone who has joined me on this floor this morning would want a faster transition. To be frank, we wish we could have avoided much of this 10-year nation building altogether. I rise today to express my strong support for the administration's decision to reduce our military footprint on an accelerated timeline.
Mr. Speaker, our soldiers, our men and women in uniform, will do and do do whatever it is we ask of them. Indeed, the sacrifices that our soldiers and their families have made have been extraordinary. Just this morning, with Congressman Donnelly, I met a family who lost their dad, and his son is here who was serving with him in Afghanistan. There is nothing that we can do to adequately express to them our enormous appreciation for their sacrifice.
If we did not have men and women who, at the call of the Commander in Chief, would put on the uniform and report for duty and do what the Commander in Chief and this Congress authorized, we would not have the United States of America. But the obligation we have to the citizens from our districts that are willing to make that sacrifice is to give them a policy worthy of their willingness to make that sacrifice.
It is time that we do all we can to accelerate our withdrawal from Afghanistan. The reason is this: That's what our national security requires.
There was a very valid reason to go into Afghanistan. It was the home of Osama bin Laden. The Taliban gave him sanctuary. Al Qaeda had free hand. Our policy was right when it was started, but it transformed itself into a nation-building policy where our partner has become a corrupt Afghanistan Government that is unreliable, that is squandering taxpayer money, that is not cooperating with the American military.
The question is: Should the American taxpayer and the American soldier be required to do nation building in Afghanistan, particularly when the threat of terrorism is real, but it is not a nation-centered threat? It is dispersed around the globe. The new American policy of counterterrorism, as opposed to counterinsurgency--that is, going after terrorists where they are as opposed to nation building where some may be--is the right direction for this country to go.
Mr. Speaker, the policy announced by Mr. Panetta to accelerate that withdrawal is overdue and it is timely at this point. I strongly support it and urge my colleagues to do so as well.