From terrorist cells to rogue states to piracy on the high seas, threats to our national security cannot be ignored. As a former law enforcement officer and official at the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, I know full well the need for a strong, well trained and well equipped military that is capable of addressing any crisis that arises. Yet, despite our military strength, we have a responsibility to avoid engaging our forces in conflicts abroad unless it is absolutely necessary for protecting the security of the American people. As a Member of Congress, supporting the brave men and women serving in our Armed Forces and securing our national defense are some of my highest priorities.
I always believed that our invasion and occupation of Iraq was unwarranted and misguided, costing the lives of nearly 4,500 Americans and over $1 trillion dollars. That is why I was so pleased to see the war in Iraq finally come to a close in December 2011. I applaud President Obama for working with our commanders on the ground to develop a withdrawal plan that was safe for our troops and allowed the Iraqi people to take control for themselves. It is now up to them to determine for themselves whether they will maintain their new democracy or fall again into violence.
I am proud that we have entered into regular diplomatic and military relationship. There will no longer be remnants of our occupying force in Iraq. Instead, we will enter into well defined agreements with the Iraqi government, like we do with governments around the world, to base troops in Iraq for training and security assistance purposes.
I will continue to support our diplomats and any troops sent to assist the Iraqi government, just as I supported our troops throughout the Iraq war.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States justifiably sent troops to Afghanistan in order to eradicate al Qaeda and their Taliban supporters and prevent future violence against Americans. Given the importance of stabilizing Afghanistan and the surrounding region, I supported President Obama's decision, despite some initial hesitation, to deploy an additional 30,000 troops. This increase in troop numbers has proven to be successful in rooting out Al Qaeda, defeating Taliban strongholds and bolstering the Afghani government.
Yet after a decade of military engagement, we must remember that this war cannot go on forever. To bring greater stability to the Afghan people, the focus of our military efforts must shift from combat to helping them rebuild their agriculture, transportation and education infrastructure. Having a U.S. troop presence may be necessary in the coming years, but we cannot allow this to be used as a justification for keeping American service members in Afghanistan indefinitely, as we have seen in South Korea.
We must establish a target withdrawal date, as we have in Iraq, in consultation with commanders on the ground and Afghan leaders. After years of war, our men and women in uniform need to know that they are not just fighting endlessly but are working to make Afghanistan a more stable country so that they can return home.
MILITARY STRENGTH AND READINESS
Over the past ten years, we have asked a tremendous amount of our men and women in uniform—many of whom have been deployed for five or more tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such repeated deployments put terrible strain on service members and their families, which can require months or years to be fully overcome. While I understand the strategic need to redeploy troops with minimal rest, I believe that this should be reserved for only the most critical times when our national security is at imminent risk. We have the best trained, most powerful military in the world. However, these repeated deployments exhaust our troops, wear down equipment, and prevent our military from functioning at its peak capability. With the end of our engagement in Iraq, I will advocate strongly advocate strongly for an extended rest period and not just redeploying them quickly to Afghanistan.
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