Washington, D.C. - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today in support of the McGovern/Jones Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. Below are the Leader's remarks:
“Thank you very much Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding and thank him for his leadership working with Congressman Walter Jones on this bipartisan amendment which has been brought to the floor. They have worked, again, in a bipartisan way and a patriotic way to ensure that U.S. troops are brought home from Afghanistan safely and expeditiously.
“Listening to the debate, it is interesting because I don't know that we are that far off, because we all want to ensure the national security of our country. We all respect our men and women in uniform and the job that they are doing to keep us the land of the free and the home of the brave. We respect them when they come home as our veterans. But we have to know that involvement of nearly ten years has serious consequences to our country.
“I have told the President of Afghanistan on my recent visit this spring that, each time I go there I say: ‘The American people are growing tired of war. We are weary of war.' We went into Afghanistan in the fall of 2001. For about seven years, there was no plan. There was no plan on how we would execute what we went to do and how we would leave.
“When President Obama became president, many of us who were eager for us to bring our troops home gave him a chance to put forth a plan, which he did, which calls for a drawdown of troops [in] July 2011 and terminating in, drawing down more completely [by] 2014.
“President Obama himself has said early this month, ‘I've already made a commitment that starting in July of this year, we are drawing down troops. And we are transitioning; we're training Afghan forces, so that they can start securing their own country, the Afghans can secure their own country.' The President went on to say, ‘We don't need to have a perpetual footprint of the size that we have now.'
“So therefore, I think it's really important for us to know what this amendment does that I think reflects the mood of the American people. [It requires,] within 60 days of enactment, a plan and timeframe for the accelerated transition of military and security forces to the government of Afghanistan; in 60 days, you will see a plan. Within 60 days of enactment, a plan and timeframe for negotiations leading to a political solution and reconciliation in Afghanistan--a plan within 60 days. Within 90 days of enactment, a National Intelligence Estimate on leadership, locations and capabilities of Al Qaeda and affiliated networks and cells. Who could be against that? Who could be against that? We are talking about 60 days a plan. 60 days a plan. 60 days of negotiation.
“I appreciate the efforts of this amendment, as it underscores the importance of having a plan and the timeframe for a transition of responsibility, but that's all negotiated, a transition of responsibility for security and stability to the Afghans so that we can bring our troops home. The National Intelligence Estimate on al Qaeda also called for a plan that will ensure our policy makers have updated information on the threat posed by al Qaeda and affiliates who remain a threat following the death of Osama bin Laden.
“Careful intelligence analysis is essential to keeping the American people safe. So as I salute our men and women in uniform, I also want to salute our men and women in the intelligence community who are an important part of keeping the American people safe. And I commend them and the CIA Director Panetta for his leadership in the capture of Osama Bin Laden.
“But back to this specific point in this amendment, I have gone there year after year after year never thinking that we would be engaged in the longest war in America's history. First seven years, not even a plan. And now the President has put into motion how we make judgments about how we stay and about how we leave.
“If you visit the women in Afghanistan, if you visit the women in Afghanistan, many women in the Congress have done, and some of our male colleagues as well, they will tell you--whether you are talking about educated women in Kabul, but really more relevant to me, poor, poor women in the provinces. I visited a group of women in the province of Zabul and a number of provinces and spoken to the women there. And the women there say: ‘We really want to educate our daughters. We want access to health care clinics and the rest. But we can't have that until we have security, and we can't have security until we end corruption.' There are many things going on in Afghanistan that must change. And there will be better chance of their changing if we make an investment in the civilian side of this transition.
“Whether it's diplomacy, whether it's a part of the construction--they tell me not to say reconstruction because there is not there much there before--construction there, whether it building schools. We visited little girls in schools in different parts of Afghanistan. It's very encouraging. Our troops know that we have to leave, that we have to transition out.
“But as I told President Karzai also, we didn't come here, and we're not staying here ten years so that when we leave, women return to the subjugated position they were in under the Taliban. So the answer to that is women must be at the table. When you have the negotiations for reconciliation of the leadership of the Taliban, reintegration of rank and file members of the Taliban as we move toward more stability in Afghanistan, women must play a role. Women in America, women throughout the world, care about how this all turns out there.
“So here we are, almost ten years later, in a situation where we just want to have some management of this issue. Let's have a plan for how negotiations will take place. Let's have a plan after we see the National Intelligence Estimate based on what the al Qaeda threat it is.
“This is a very wise amendment. I thank Mr. McGovern and Mr. Jones for how they put it together because it is very reasonable. It has a goal in sight. It has a reasonable approach as to how we get there.
“But make no mistake, in overwhelming numbers, the American people think we have done our job there in terms of helping the Afghan people. Our purpose there was to protect the American people. We can do both by focusing more on the civilian side of the governance issues on how Afghanistan is governed, on anti-corruption issues, and initiatives that I have seen there, on this recent trip, are an improvement over the past by training the national security forces of Afghanistan, be it police, or the military, so they can maintain their own security, and by diplomatically enlisting other countries in the region because they all have a vested interest in the stability of Afghanistan.
“But an open-ended, unending war there, which in cost there is nothing to compare to the cost of the loss of our young men and women. So that's first and foremost where our concern is, but also the cost in dollars, the cost in opportunity, the cost in military strength. This involvement, engagement in Afghanistan is not strengthening our military. Americans are paying a big price there. We want to make sure we are getting a return on that investment, and time is a very important factor. It is time to come home.
“I thank Mr. McGovern and Mr. Jones for their leadership.”