Speeches and Floor Statements
Van Hollen Statement Regarding H.Con.Res. 28 Directing the President to remove the United States Armed Forces from Afghanistan
I appreciate the sentiment behind this resolution. American and other NATO forces have been in Afghanistan for 10 years. That is a long haul and at times it seems that we are making little progress in achieving our objective. Like many Americans, I have serious questions about our strategy in Afghanistan. That being said, I oppose this resolution for three reasons.
First, the foundational argument of this resolution is simply wrong. Section 5(c) of the War Powers Act, the provision referenced in this resolution, states that Congress may, by concurrent resolution, require the President to redeploy troops out of the line of fire if the President had never received congressional authorization for the deployment. But the Congress did authorized military operations in Afghanistan in 2001. Consequently, there is no sound legal basis for this resolution.
Second, the Secretary of Defense has indicated that an ill-timed and precipitous drawdown of forces could threaten the progress and the sacrifices we have made in Afghanistan. A withdrawal of troops in 9 months, as this resolution requires, could create a total power vacuum and be a recipe for anarchy in Afghanistan. The likely result could be a bloodbath with a high probability that al Qaeda will once again establish itself in Afghanistan.
Third, the President has announced that the United States will begin to redeploy its forces in Afghanistan this Summer. Last week, General Petraeus indicated that the redeployment would begin as planned. The goal is to steadily, but responsibly, withdraw U.S. and NATO forces as we accelerate the training of the Afghan National Security Forces. I will closely monitor the progress of that effort in order to ensure that we follow through as planned.
Our decision to forcibly remove the Taliban regime in 2001 was the right one. The Taliban regime had allowed Afghanistan to become a safe haven for al Qaeda and a launching pad for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The United Nations, the Atlantic Alliance and the entire international community agreed that the U.S. response was appropriate and justified.
Although that decision was justified, serious questions remain about the best way forward in Afghanistan. I oppose this resolution. I will review similar future resolutions with a fresh eye based on the consideration of the situation in Afghanistan. We must see greater evidence that the Afghan National Security Forces are steadily assuming greater responsibility.