It has been more than fifteen years since American and allied forces invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban regime and stamp out the terrorist breeding ground it harbored. Many brave Americans have given their lives in the struggle to defeat al-Qaeda, and it is incumbent on us as a nation to honor their sacrifice by never allowing it to be in vain. Our Armed Forces remain engaged at this critical front of the Global War on Terrorism, which is why I recently led a Congressional Delegation to the region conducting oversight to better inform our efforts to fund and support the military.
I’ve said for years that the “canary in the coal mine” for our success in Afghanistan going forward will be the preservation of the gains by women and girls to attain human rights. During our visit, our delegation met with Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani and many other women leaders. We discussed the opportunities now available to Afghan women that weren’t conceivable fifteen years ago under the Taliban. Most importantly, they explained just how critical these human rights are to the overall stability of Afghanistan.
While it is certainly encouraging to listen to these remarkable stories of hope, there exists a deep concern about seeing our progress backslide. In fact, this is already happening in some areas of the country. The Taliban’s resurgence amid the drawdown of coalition forces presents a major threat that we must acknowledge.
I believe the United States and our coalition partners cannot allow the gains we’ve made in Afghanistan to fall by the wayside. We know all too well what can happen when radical, oppressive ideologies are allowed to fester in hostile nations. Having observed the situation in Afghanistan over several years now, I can tell you that the progress today is as fragile as ever. That’s why I am pleased that President Donald Trump is reviewing our strategy in Afghanistan, including a reevaluation of troop levels and our rules of engagement.
Simply put, if we’re going to be in Afghanistan, we need to be willing to do what it takes to succeed. Of course, the Afghan people must take the reins of their country’s future, but the United States will play a key role in ensuring a lasting peace. Right now I fear we have tied the hands of our military through reduced force strength and limited rules of engagement. We should never send our military men and women into harm’s way without the tools and resources they need to get the job done. Reassessing our force strength and rules of engagement is the right decision, and I look forward to hearing more from President Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis on this matter in the coming days and weeks.
This week President Trump is traveling throughout the Middle East and Europe on his first trip abroad as Commander-in-Chief. This trip comes at an ideal time. Having just returned from the Middle East myself, I can tell you that maintaining our strong relationships with allies in that region is critical in the fight against ISIS and other terrorist groups.
I particularly appreciate the President including a visit to Israel on his itinerary. As you may remember, former President Barack Obama famously snubbed Israel during his first trip to the Middle East as President in 2009. Israel is our closest ally in the region, and I am pleased President Trump is making a point to include them on his first foreign trip. The President will also be attending the NATO summit in Brussels, where he is expected to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to the alliance and convey his insistence that all member nations must share the financial burden.
Strengthening our country’s strategic alliances is a priority for me as member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, and I am eager to see what comes out of the President’s travels abroad.