AFGHANISTAN; Congressional Record Vol. 157, No. 88
(Senate - June 20, 2011)

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[Pages S3911-S3913]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, I have come to the floor to speak about 
something that I very passionately believe in, and that is my view in 
support of a significant and sustained reduction of American combat 
forces in Afghanistan beginning this July.
  In short, I believe the time has come to move from a strategy of 
counterinsurgency to one of counterterrorism--a strategy that would 
rely on our specialized military forces to continue to engage those who 
present a real and continued threat to the national security of the 
United States and one that would allow us to bring home a majority of 
troops serving in Afghanistan.
  After September 11, almost a decade ago, we were clearly justified in 
intervening in Afghanistan to defeat al-Qaida and bring bin Laden to 
justice for the atrocities they committed against Americans on our own 
soil. I supported President Bush at that time in that effort. I have a 
standard that if I am willing to send my son and daughter to fight for 
America on behalf of the Nation's national security interests, I will 
vote to send anyone else's sons and daughters. Not so in Iraq where I 
did not believe it was in the national security interests of the United 
States; and if I won't send my son and daughter, I won't vote to send 
anyone else's sons or daughters. But in Afghanistan nearly a decade 
ago, that is where the perpetrators of September 11 were, and it was 
the right engagement. Our original goals have largely been met in that 
  Today, even according to the Director of the CIA, fewer than 100 
members of al-Qaida remain in Afghanistan. Since September 11, we are 
painfully aware that the world is a different place, and we will always 
have to be vigilant. But the current threat simply does not justify the 
presence of 100,000 American troops on the ground. Bin Laden is dead, 
having hidden for years in Pakistan in plain view of the ISI, 
Pakistan's intelligence force, and the Pakistani military.
  Clearly, the issue at hand is about terrorism not insurgency. 
Terrorism is a borderless issue represented by the

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unimpeded movement of the Taliban into Pakistan and a safe haven in 
Abbottabad for al-Qaida's leader. In finding bin Laden and bringing him 
to justice, we have struck a serious blow to al-Qaida's network that 
permits us to now reconsider our mission and the wisdom of pursuing a 
broad and open-ended strategy of nation building in Afghanistan 
because, make no mistake about it, what we are doing in Afghanistan is 
nation building.
  This is interesting. I have heard speeches on the Senate floor and in 
my previous service in the House by many of my colleagues on the other 
side of the aisle about how we should not be nation building, as though 
that is not a vital national interest. Well, that is exactly what we 
are doing. The costs of our current strategy are too high in lives 
lost, in futures unraveled by injury, and in taxpayer dollars spent.
  Mr. President, 1,500 brave men and women have lost their lives in 
Afghanistan. Almost 12,000 have been wounded in action, at a cost--a 
continuing cost--of $10 billion a month--a month. Nonmilitary 
contributions to Afghan reconstruction and development from 2002 to 
2010 have reached $19 billion--a number which is expected to surge as 
we transition to a civilian mission. But at the same time, reports from 
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on which I sit, and from the 
bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan 
place our billions of dollars in investment at risk of falling into 
disrepair because of inadequate planning to pay for the ongoing 
operations and maintenance; not to mention that from my own 
perspective, $19 billion later, I don't know what we have achieved in 
  In my mind not only are the costs and lives and treasure far too 
high, but there is a growing consensus that absent a very long and 
sustained commitment involving many troops on the ground, we can't win 
the hearts and minds of the Afghan people or, for that matter, even 
President Karzai who, in my view, has not proven to be a good partner. 
Karzai most recently suggested that the U.S. and NATO forces risk 
becoming an occupying force that would be, in his words, ousted from 
the country--all of these lives later of American troops lost. To do 
what? To have a counterinsurgency effort. Which is what? Fighting 
insurgents to give the Afghan Government the opportunity to sustain 
itself, to defend itself, to govern itself, and we are an occupying 
force? We are an occupying force?
  We have to ask, even if we are willing to make the enormous economic 
commitment required to build a democracy and to fund the necessary 
security elements at the cost of tens of billions of dollars per year, 
what is the likelihood of our success?
  The Afghan Government is corrupt. Our working relationship with 
President Karzai continues to be challenged. Today I believe he made 
some other comments--either today or yesterday--again, that malign the 
very Nation that is there defending them with the sons and daughters of 
America, with the National Treasury of America--in a country that, by 
the way, has $1 trillion of precious deposits of various minerals that, 
if properly pursued, would be able to fund the Afghan Nation for years 
to come.
  When they gave out their first contract, who did they give it to? Not 
the Nation that has defended them but the Chinese who have done nothing 
to stand up for the Afghan people.
  So I look at a government that is corrupt, our working relationship 
with Karzai crumbling, our focus on building security forces challenged 
because its membership largely excludes Pashtuns in the south, which is 
the base for the Taliban. I am not certain there is any amount of money 
or a plan that can work under those circumstances. It seems to me for 
every Taliban fighter we kill, buy off, or convert another one will 
take his place, and more and more will stand up to fight an enemy that 
is perceived as infidels. I am not certain a counterinsurgency strategy 
is anything but counterproductive.
  It is clear to me the present course is unsustainable, creates 
dependency, breeds corruption, and ignores the fact that at some point 
Afghanistan will have to stand on its own--on its trillions of dollars 
in mineral deposits--and build its own future. We are spending $10 
billion a month on a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan that 
does not have a clear path to a definable victory. I am not certain a 
counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan does anything but feed and 
grow the insurgency.
  In short, I am not certain a counterinsurgency strategy is a winnable 
strategy. Therefore, it is my belief we need a tailored 
counterterrorism strategy to achieve and protect our national security 
interests and meet our broader fiduciary responsibilities. Since 2001 
we have invested over $50 billion to help stand up a central government 
in Kabul and fund reconstruction projects across Afghanistan. So $26 
billion has gone to standing up the Afghan security forces, including 
an additional $11 billion this year. To date, the Afghan National Army 
now stands at 164,000 men, and the Afghan National Police Force at 
126,000. So combined, the Afghan National Security Forces now stand at 
290,000 men strong.

  We can't forever be the overprotective parent. The time has come to 
allow Afghans to secure their own future, to draw on the 290,000 men 
who have committed to securing their country's future, and to allow 
them the opportunity to defend their Nation and their people.
  The fact is, Afghanistan is a rugged, multifaceted country with a 
long history of complex tribal relationships. It faces almost 
unprecedented challenges in building a vibrant, independent, and, 
hopefully, democratic nation from the rubble of more than a quarter 
century of war. We can guide a process to provide necessary, 
achievable, and sustainable assistance to bolster their efforts--and we 
should--but it is up to the Afghan people to stand up a government and 
a security force and to develop their own counterinsurgency effort.
  Our primary goal--the goal that was crystal clear on September 12, 
2001--was to address the imminent terrorist threat to America and 
America's interests. The phrase was ``to drain the swamp and address 
the new threats we face.''
  The Taliban is a threat, but they are not the threat we rallied to 
address. Any counterterrorism strategy we employ now can necessarily 
deal with any Taliban issues that would be a threat to American 
security. But the primary threat to America and to American interests 
is posed by al-Qaida. It is a threat that is stateless, borderless. The 
notion that if we deploy enough forces in Afghanistan we will somehow 
lessen that threat, in my view, is farcical and falls on the 
conventional Washington wisdom that more is better.
  In my view, better is better--a mission better focused on the 
threats, with specialized troops better trained to better locate and 
better destroy terrorist hideouts; a mission with resources better 
spent on projects that are necessary, achievable, and sustainable. In 
short, we need a better, not a bigger, mission.
  In my view, we must accelerate the transfer of nation building and 
nation protecting to the Afghan people and their government. We must 
remain ever vigilant and ever prepared to protect our national security 
interests and eliminate any new terrorist threats that emerge. We 
should continue to identify areas where our advice and assistance can 
strengthen the Afghan Government and the institutions of democracy. But 
our mission should be one of counterterrorism, not counterinsurgency.
  We need to concentrate our resources on the real threats in the 
region--threats to U.S. citizens and U.S. interests and threats that 
could destabilize Pakistan and place nuclear materials at risk, which 
would be a very real and present threat to national security and the 
security of the region--a threat we cannot abide.
  We entered Afghanistan to address a threat vital to the national 
security of our country. By reforming our mission, targeting our unique 
military resources, and refining our assistance mission to focus on 
sustainable and achievable outcomes, we can achieve that goal with 
fewer troops and less money.
  For those reasons, last week I joined with my distinguished colleague 
Senator Merkley of Oregon and many other Members in urging the 
President to begin a sizable and sustained reduction in U.S. combat 
forces from Afghanistan this summer. It is time to

[[Page S3913]]

bring our men and women home. It is my belief this is the best and most 
responsible policy for America--a policy that seeks to protect our 
national security while meeting our fiduciary responsibilities, and 
serving the interests of the service men and women and their families 
who have sacrificed so much on behalf of a grateful Nation. It is time. 
It is time.
  With that, I yield the floor.