Throughout my time in Congress, I have had the privilege to serve on several committees that directly influence our country’s defense and foreign policy initiatives, namely the House Armed Services Committee and the House Appropriations Committee. Most recently, this Congress, I was asked to serve on the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee.
In this role, I have been part of many negotiations regarding funding levels for the many important programs we have overseas. Over the years, I have also used Congress’ constitutional oversight to question members of the Executive Branch about our country’s strategy abroad. I believe that this process is deeply important, and we must remain committed to upholding our country’s system of checks and balances when making critical military and foreign policy decisions.
On top of my committee-specific duties related to foreign policy, for the past eight years, my colleague, Congresswoman Susan Davis, and I have led an all-female Mother’s Day trip to Afghanistan. During these trips, we have been given the opportunity to meet with our servicemen and women who are away from their families on Mother’s Day. I believe it is so incredibly important for members of Congress to see firsthand how our policy decisions impact the lives of Americans at home and abroad. I have been able to use what I’ve learned during these trips to make more informed decisions about military spending and defense policy.
Also, importantly, these trips have afforded me the opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to improving circumstances for those in Afghanistan, especially Afghan women. While gains have undoubtedly been made since 2001, it remains critical that American leaders stay engaged to ensure continued forward momentum for these women.
I recently addressed a group at the United States Institute of Peace, and I told them that it is my belief that a peace deal – a true, lasting peace in Afghanistan – will not be reached until all facets of the Afghan community have a seat at the negotiating table. This means Afghan society must continue to see an increased number of women serving in all societal roles – in the military, police force, as educators, and more.
During this time when the future of Afghanistan is uncertain, these conversations I have participated in are so vitally important, and I have been honored to be a part of them. We have made great strides towards improving life for Afghan women over the years, but we must keep moving the ball down the field. The country simply cannot truly move forward until all its citizens have a bettered quality of life, and I will remain engaged in this fight.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.