The President’s Proposal on Afghanistan

For nearly sixteen years, American servicemembers and diplomatic and development personnel have been in Afghanistan, fighting terrorism and helping the people of Afghanistan to rebuild their nation after decades of Taliban rule. Our armed forces and the U.S. government have made some progress, but Afghanistan has a long fight ahead to gain the sustainable stability and security its people want. The United States and our allies have a continued interest in preventing Afghanistan from being used as a safe haven or operational base from which terrorist groups like al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, and ISIS can execute attacks that threaten our national security.

The President’s proposal deserves a thorough review. I appreciate that it appears to have been developed on the basis of counsel from our military leadership, but I am concerned that such a significant decision was made at a time when the State Department lacks Senate-confirmed leaders in many critical senior roles. Any continued military operations in Afghanistan must be accompanied by a comprehensive diplomatic and development strategy, including to ensure that the country is ready for Parliamentary elections scheduled for July 2018 and to maintain and grow the health, education, and human rights gains that have been made thus far. For example, I have led an effort to invest in recruiting and retaining women in the Afghan National Security Forces and we must ensure the Afghan government builds on those gains.

Afghanistan’s future must be decided by the Afghan people, not the United States military — the Afghan government, especially the Afghan National Security Forces, must continue to develop the capability and willingness to take responsibility for their own country’s security. Countries in the region, especially Pakistan, also need to continue to fight terrorism and work with the Afghan government to improve regional stability and security.

I urge the President to engage Congress in a bipartisan, bicameral effort to draft and enact a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or AUMF, that will govern the ongoing deployment of U.S. military forces to combat terrorism. The truth is that the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and our role in them, have evolved significantly since the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs were enacted. As we call on our servicemembers for another deployment, more months away from their families, we owe it to them to have this debate, no matter how hard it may be to come to agreement.


Representing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

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