Afghanistan â€“ The Way Forward
Over the Memorial Day Weekend, I made my second trip to Afghanistan. During this visit I was privileged to meet and thank our troops, including many from Texas, for their sacrifice and bravery in service to our country. Our service men and women are truly amazing, and their hard work and dedication can be seen in the many improvements in Afghanistan.
This trip was also an opportunity to see our Afghanistan policies in action and gain insight from key leaders on the ground. What is the way forward in Afghanistan?
Reducing troops to a level in agreement with recommendations from General Joseph Dunford, the senior military commander in Afghanistan, pushes us in the right direction. Our troops â€“ wherever and whenever deployed â€“ must always have enough manpower to accomplish their mission.
As we draw down and draw out of Afghanistan, we must do so in a way that preserves our hard-fought successes. We must never allow Afghanistan to again become a safe haven for terrorists.
In addition to proper troop levels and the use of Special Forces to target terrorists, our shift to a primarily advisory role in Afghanistan is equally as important. The Afghan people know they have a vested interest in their future. The answer to long-term stability in Afghanistan â€“ is Afghanistan itself. They must own their future.
During this second trip, I saw an Afghan population ready to take the lead. The Taliban is out of favor with much of the population, women bravely go to school every day, and the streets are lined with small businesses. Cell phones were common. I did not see or sense a desire to go back to the “oldâ€ Afghanistan. Already, Afghan forces themselves are fulfilling the many functions of safety and security and have become the tip of the spear.
Still, we must proceed cautiously. We must be willing to evaluate and reevaluate Afghanistan policy regularly. How we reduce our troop levels in Afghanistan in the short-term will be a major factor in determining whether our hard-fought efforts are successful in the long-term.
Congress, too, must also work in a bipartisan manner to end sequestration, which will severely erode the readiness of Armed Forces and will strip our service members of critical resources necessary to defend our nation and protect American interests abroad. Our troops need proper training and equipment â€“ and they will not get them if sequester remains in force.
I am thoroughly committed to fighting to make sure our service men and women have the training, tools and equipment they need to achieve an overwhelming advantage on the battlefield. Our sons and daughters must have what they need to succeed, especially when their very lives â€“ and our nationâ€™s survival â€“ rest in the balance.
The way forward in Afghanistan is through committed, non-partisan leadership. Congress must demonstrate the same commitment to public service shown by our troops. No blame game. No finger-pointing. We must work together to avoid sequestration at home, and we must work with Afghanistan to help them continue their progress.
U.S. Representative Pete P. Gallego, D-Alpine, represents the 23rd District of Texas, which includes all or parts of 29 counties in southwest Texas, stretching from San Antonio to El Paso. He serves on the House Armed Services and House Agriculture Committees.