BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Ms. DeLAURO. Madam Chairman, we have now had combat troops in Afghanistan for over 10 years. It has become the longest war in the history of our Republic. Over 2,000 brave American men and women have perished in this conflict.
Because of their sacrifice and the hard work, dedication, and sacrifices of thousands more brave young men and women, al Qaeda has been decimated and Osama bin Laden, the perpetrator of the September 11 attacks against Americans, has been brought to justice.
Now, almost 11 years after we first arrived, it is time to bring our military involvement in Afghanistan to an end. Afghanistan is its own sovereign country, and its citizens need to take responsibility for their destiny. As for us, we need to bring our troops home and to start reinvesting in America again.
At the recent NATO summit in Chicago, President Obama and NATO leaders announced an end to combat operations in Afghanistan in 2013 and a transition of lead responsibility for security to the Afghan Government by the end of 2014. These are important steps, but the President also recently signed an agreement in Kabul that could keep American troops in the region until 2024. We need to bring our troops home now, not 16 years from now.
This war is costing American taxpayers $130 billion a year. Especially at a time when we are trying to cut the deficit, reduce unnecessary spending, and reinvest in our own economic growth, this is far too much. The entire GDP of Afghanistan is $30 billion, less than a quarter of what we are spending year in and year out.
The nation and Government of Afghanistan face many tough challenges ahead, including working to foster economic development in the foundations of civil society, such as literacy, education, agricultural development, and the empowerment of women. But these are not challenges that are primarily military in nature. As such, it is time to let local Afghans do local jobs and build their economy rather than rely on government contractors.
I have visited in Afghanistan twice over the course of this conflict and saw firsthand how our renewed attention to the region since 2009 and the counterinsurgency strategy developed by General Petraeus has brought marked improvements in securing areas, in training security and police, in establishing the rule of law, and in developing local economies.
Perhaps, most importantly, on a trip last March, I felt a sense of optimism in Afghanistan that was not there before, as well as an understanding among our military that the Afghans must soon take over and govern their own nation.
The time is now. For over a decade, our troops have accomplished the mission that they were given. They have performed heroically. They, including thousands of brave servicemembers from Connecticut, have been operating in one of the most inhospitable environments one can imagine, making sacrifices for their country by serving, as well as losing this time with their families.
It is time to bring our troops home and for the people of Afghanistan to forge their own destiny.
I yield back the balance of my time.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT