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U.S.-Afghanistan Policy in Shambles

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Speaker, the situation in Afghanistan is as bleak as I can remember at any point in the last 10 1/2 years that we've been at war.

In recent months, we've seen the burning of the Koran by American troops, a video of soldiers urinating on bodies of dead Afghans, spontaneous riots in the Afghan streets protesting the continued U.S. occupation, as well as deadly attacks by Afghan soldiers on the U.S. and NATO forces that are there to help and to train them.

And now, in the most grotesque tragedy imaginable, 2 weeks ago a U.S. staff sergeant left his base, walked more than a mile to an Afghan village outside Kandahar, going door-to-door and systematically gunning down 17 civilians.

The New York Times reported that one Afghan farmer was visiting a nearby town for the day and returned home to find that his wife, four sons, and four daughters had all been murdered in the attack. And here's the irony: According to the Times' account, because the Taliban still lingered in the area, the farmer had been concerned about moving his family back to this part of southern Afghanistan last year, but he was reassured by the very fact that he would be near an American military base.

With these latest atrocities, how can we expect President Karzai, a reluctant ally under the best of circumstances, to continue to cooperate? How do we expect to convince the Taliban to come to the negotiating table for a peace and reconciliation settlement? And most importantly, after this incident, how do we convince the people of Afghanistan that we are their friends, that our presence in their country is a force for good?

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales will be tried for these unspeakable crimes, but I also think any responsibility analysis would conclude that he is also a victim of the war. He was on his fourth deployment. He clearly suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder, or even worse, mental health affliction. He clearly had no business being on active duty.

Mr. Speaker, more than a decade of war is weakening and wreaking havoc with the bodies and minds of our servicemembers. Staff Sergeant Bales will be held to account. But what about the cruel and unforgiving war machine that absolutely has to bear some responsibility? When are we going to finally set warfare aside and embrace a SMART Security approach?

Yesterday, 80 retired top military leaders took out an ad in Politico calling for robust investment in development, diplomacy, and other civilian efforts that will do a lot more than military force to keep America safe. And yet the Republican budget we'll debate later today cuts that very foreign aid in humanitarian programs.

When will we learn, Mr. Speaker? How bad does it have to get?

Our Afghanistan policy is an absolute shambles, and the American people know it. The latest polling shows more than two-thirds, 69 percent, believe we shouldn't be waging this war.

This is the moment we must realize that this mission has no hope of succeeding, that the only humane and responsible course is to end the war at once. This is the moment, finally, after all the tragedy and mayhem, to bring our troops home.

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