Iraq and Afghanistan
In October 2002, I voted against the resolution granting President George W. Bush broad authority to invade Iraq, arguing that if the U.S. did not work with the United Nations and the world community, we could endanger our international coalition against terrorism and damage our moral authority. While I am deeply disappointed that these concerns were borne out, I am pleased that President Obama executed a strategy that ended the Iraq war and removed all of our combat troops by the end of 2011. And while I opposed the Iraq war resolution, I could not be prouder of the service and sacrifice of our troops and their families. I will continue to work with the Administration and military and foreign affairs experts to honor their commitment by helping to maintain a stable Iraq.
In May 2009, I had the opportunity to visit with troops, commanders, diplomats, NGO representatives and others in Iraq and Afghanistan as I led a congressional delegation to observe firsthand the successes and challenges facing us in those two critical war zones. But most importantly, I was extraordinarily impressed with the dedication and professionalism of our troops and commanders. These brave men and women are committed to bringing peace and stability to troubled regions of the world. Meeting with these patriots on the front lines only strengthened my commitment to them and to ensuring their safe return home.
In the wake of redeployment from Iraq, I supported efforts to redirect our attention and resources to the struggle against violent extremism, particularly in Afghanistan. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress authorized the use of military force to combat violent extremism, and specifically to put a stop to al Qaeda’s use of the territory of Afghanistan as a base of operations for terrorist activities directed towards the United States and our national interests. The Afghan war is now the longest in our nation’s history, and there can be no question that it has already cost us dearly. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I have questioned Pentagon officials about the President’s plan for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, and I am supportive of the Administration’s efforts to reduce our presence and transition security over to the Afghan government. But as difficult as military operations have proven, rebuilding a post-conflict Afghanistan is in many ways an even more complex challenge. There are no shortcuts to a sustainable economy and a stable government, and we must fully support and enable the Afghan people as they move towards a brighter future.
In May 2013, as Ranking Member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities, I was proud to co-sponsor the Oversight of Sensitive Military Operations Act, which for the first time requires notification to the House and Senate national security committees of any overseas lethal or capture operation outside of Afghanistan, including those conducted with unmanned aerial vehicles. I believe it is essential for Congress to have full awareness of the scope of United States activities overseas in order to conduct the proper oversight that the American people expect. The provisions of this legislation are included in the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014.
As I continue my work on both the House Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I remain committed to ensuring that, whether in Afghanistan or other areas of conflict around the world, our men and women in uniform and intelligence professionals are properly resourced and executing a national security strategy grounded in strategic considerations and careful debate. As part of this effort, I believe that it is critical that we build and sustain our international coalitions and alliances, which will not only help our national security efforts, but also help in repairing our international reputation. Our nation cannot afford the unilateralism of the past, and as demonstrated in operations in Libya and elsewhere, alliances rooted in mutual interests are vital to countering security challenges in an increasingly complex and interconnected world.