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Skelton says now is not the right time for U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan
Skelton says now is not the right time for U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan

Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 14, 2010) — On March 10, I helped defeat an ill-timed resolution, submitted by U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), which would have undermined the recent gains made by U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan by mandating the withdrawal of all American military personnel by the end of this year. With the strategy, resources, and personnel to stabilize that beleaguered nation finally in place, withdrawing now would guarantee failure and ensure that Afghanistan would again become a haven for those wishing to harm our nation.

Following an extensive review of the ongoing war throughout 2009, the President announced that our military commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, would receive an additional 30,000 troops to implement a new counterinsurgency strategy. These additional combat troops, combined with those already deployed, are currently fighting to create the stable conditions needed for governance and economic development to take root within that beleaguered nation.

The new approach to the war in Afghanistan — defined by greater resources, a true counterinsurgency strategy, and close cooperation between American, Afghan, NATO, and Pakistani forces — has shown great gains in the past several months. Recently, Afghan, coalition, and U.S. forces launched an operation to push the Taliban out of Marjah, a town of about 50,000 people in central Helmand Province that had become a hub of Taliban and insurgent activity. As combat troops secured each sector of the city, civil government and aid organizations have begun establishing order — the second phase of the operation. A new Afghan administrator has been put in place, and the process of building that government has begun.

Additionally, in recent days Pakistani forces made several of the most significant Taliban captures since the war began. Two “shadow governors,” a former Taliban finance minister, and the Taliban’s second in command, Mullah Baradar, were all recently arrested within Pakistan.

Of course, hard fighting lies ahead for our forces; accomplishing our goals in Afghanistan will be neither quick nor easy. The Afghan people will have to recommit themselves to building a government that is capable of providing justice and security without rampant corruption.

But, our counterinsurgency strategy is the best chance we have to prevent Afghanistan from returning to the haven of terrorism it was before 9/11. If we pull out now and abandon those Afghans who have only recently been freed from violent extremism, I have no doubt that the Taliban would reestablish their hold on southern Afghanistan, if not the entire country.

Let us not forget that Afghanistan is an epicenter of terrorism. After eight long years, we finally have a strategy for success, a President who has listened to his military and civilian experts, and the soldiers and resources needed to stabilize Afghanistan. While success is not guaranteed, it is Congress’ job, at such a critical juncture, to stand strong behind our men and women on the front lines. They have been sent overseas to do a job, and passing this irresponsible resolution would have undercut their efforts and guaranteed failure.

Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at www.house.gov/skelton.

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