Congressman Garamendi to Introduce Amendment at Defense Bill Hearing to End to War in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek, CA), a Member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), tomorrow at the HASC hearing will introduce an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that calls for an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"Nearly a decade ago we entered Afghanistan to kill Al Qaeda operatives and eradicate their training camps. With Osama Bin Laden dead, the training camps destroyed, and fewer than 100 Al Qaeda left in Afghanistan, we’ve achieved most of our mission critical goals," said Congressman Garamendi. "It’s time we shifted away from fighting an internal civil war and toward focusing on Al Qaeda like a laser wherever it takes root."

Yesterday Garamendi joined eight bipartisan Members of Congress in a letter to the President asking for an end to the war.

Garamendi’s amendment calls for a reduction of 90 percent of troops in Afghanistan by the end of 2013. The remaining soldiers would be focused exclusively on counter-terrorism and training Afghan soldiers and police. Text of the amendment and text of Congressman Garamendi’s prepared statement for the record are below.

Amendment:

AMENDMENT TO H.R. 1540 OFFERED BY MR. GARAMENDI OF CALIFORNIA
At the end of subtitle B of title XII of division A of the bill, add the following:

SEC. 12xx. LIMITATION ON FUNDS FOR MILITARY OPERATIONS IN AFGHANISTAN AND RELATED PROVISIONS.
(a) LIMITATION ON FUNDS.—Amounts made available to carry out this Act for military operations in Afghanistan may be used only for purposes of counter-terrorism operations, including—
(1) locating and destroying terrorist cells within Afghanistan and the region; and
(2) providing for the continued training of the Afghan national police and military forces.
(b) REDEPLOYMENT OF U.S. ARMED FORCES.—The Secretary of Defense shall redeploy the United States Armed Forces from Afghanistan so that—
(1) not more than 25,000 members of the Armed Forces are deployed in Afghanistan by December 31, 2012; and
(2) not more than 10,000 members of the Armed Forces are deployed in Afghanistan by December 31, 2013.

Prepared Statement for the Record:

I rise to propose an amendment that would accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. At this pivotal point in our ongoing mission to eliminate terrorism and combat extremism, it is appropriate for this committee to re-evaluate our policy in Afghanistan and our broader strategy for keeping America safe and secure in the face of an ongoing terrorist threat and a struggling domestic economy.

The killing of Osama Bin Laden marks a critical juncture in a mission we began almost ten years ago. In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, we vowed to eliminate Al Qaeda and to bring to justice those who would maim and kill innocent civilians. Congress authorized the President to deploy the forces necessary to achieve this goal, and we channeled the best of our intelligence, military and diplomatic capacities toward this end. As the site of Al Qaeda training operations, Afghanistan was initially identified as critical territory in what we already knew even then would be a global struggle.  Our troops fought bravely to dismantle Al Qaeda training camps and eliminate their leaders, and now fewer than 100 Al Qaeda members are estimated to remain in Afghanistan.

But this limited, targeted and justified military action in Afghanistan has turned into the longest war in our nation’s history, draining our resources at a time of domestic economic hardship and financial instability, and costing thousands of U.S. lives.  To date, we have spent 722 billion U.S. taxpayer dollars on the war in Afghanistan, and that price tag increases by 10 billion dollars each month we stay. When we calculate the long-term costs of the war, including servicing our debt and caring for our veterans, the dollar figures are almost inconceivable. And the human costs of this war are immeasurable when we consider the circles of grief that surround each of the more than 10,000 Americans who have been killed or wounded.

It is Congress’s job to advance policies that are in the best interest of our constituents, and the most important of those interests is security. So we must ask ourselves: Does it advance America’s security to maintain 100,000 troops fighting against the Taliban in Afghanistan while Al Qaeda establishes new roots in other countries such as Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and even the U.S.? Does it advance America’s security to spend $120 billion a year trying to build and defend a democratic state in Afghanistan while we run up our deficit and cut fundamental programs in our own country? Does it advance America’s security to pour resources into fighting a civil war against the Taliban in Afghanistan while we reduce funding for local law enforcement at home, even when our own CIA has determined that the most likely terrorist threats may be homegrown?

I conclude that the answer to these questions is definitively “no,” and polls suggest that most members of the American public agree.

This is a pivotal moment in our nation’s history, and a time when decisions by Congress and the Administration will have a major impact on our national security, now and into the future. As civilian leadership, and particularly as members of the Armed Services Committee, it is our duty to only authorize funding for those military actions which keep America safe. We owe it to our troops, and we owe it to the constituents we serve, to ensure that not one extra dollar is spent, and not one new life is lost, in a war that is not critical to our core national security interests.
Eliminating Al Qaeda is a crucial national security concern, and we must maintain a laser-like focus on this international terrorist network, capitalizing on our military, intelligence, and diplomatic advantages to track them down wherever they try to establish roots--cutting off their funding, taking out their leaders, and intercepting their operations. The recent operation against Osama Bin Laden epitomizes the kind of precise and coordinated strategy that is effective against an agile and decentralized enemy.

We must also redirect our resources toward building up our own nation, moving toward a more balanced budget in the short run and investing in the kinds of programs that will ensure our economic productivity and leadership in the global economy over the long run.  Ultimately, America’s strength depends as much on our economic vitality and financial stability as on our military might.

Withdrawing a significant number of our troops does not mean abandoning Afghanistan. With a reduced military and civilian presence, we can maintain programs that support their economic and social development, and continue training Afghan national police and security forces. We should also push for a negotiated political settlement to the current conflict that engages elements of the Taliban and ensures some degree of stability.

Withdrawing most of our troops also does not mean allowing Afghanistan to devolve into a terrorist haven. It was and is an error to equate Taliban return with Al Qaeda’s return.  Limited numbers of U.S. troops can continue to carry out counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan, and if there is some renewed terrorist activity, we can and should respond to it much as we have been doing in other countries such as Yemen and Somalia.

At this turning point in our long struggle against terrorism and extremism, it is time to realign our strategy with our goals. The amendment I offer would reduce troop levels to 25,000 by the end of 2012 and to 10,000 by the end of 2013. Shifting from a counterinsurgency campaign to a limited counterinsurgency operation allows us to achieve the dual objectives of pursuing those terrorists who would do us harm, wherever they might emerge, and of rebuilding our domestic economy. Both are absolutely fundamental to our national security.  I ask you to join me in support of this amendment that I firmly believe offers the best way forward for keeping our country safe, secure, and prosperous.

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