(Senate - April 14, 2010)

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[Pages S2296-S2298]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


      By Mr. FEINGOLD:
  S. 3197. A bill to require a plan for the safe, orderly, and 
expeditious redeployment of United States Armed Forces from 
Afghanistan; to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
  Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, today I am introducing legislation that 
would require the President to establish a flexible timetable for the 
responsible drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Rep. McGovern and 
Rep. Jones are also introducing companion legislation in the House.
  This bicameral, bipartisan legislation would make clear our timeframe 
and our intention to focus on a global counterterrorism strategy that 
is essential to our efforts to combat al Qaeda. As we were reminded 
again by the nearly successful attack on Christmas day, al Qaeda is an 
agile enemy with affiliates operating and recruiting around the world. 
Sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan this year will not help us 
deter or thwart attacks by al Qaeda's increasingly dangerous regional 
affiliates, nor will it eliminate al Qaeda's safe haven in Pakistan. 
The costly, military-centric, nation-building campaign currently 
underway in Afghanistan is unsustainable, unrealistic and unnecessary 
for our counterterrorism goals.
  This bill would require the President to set a timetable for drawing 
down our forces in Afghanistan and identify any variables that would 
require an extension of that timetable. While I am disappointed by his 
decision to expand our military involvement in Afghanistan, I commend 
the President for setting a start-date for redeployment, namely July 
2011. Our allies have stated that it has helped ``focus the minds'' of 
our partners in Afghanistan and around the world. Having a start date 
is essential, but alone it is insufficient--it should be accompanied by 
an end date, too. The President should convey to the American and 
Afghan people how long he anticipates it will take to complete his 
military objectives. So long as our large-scale military presence 
remains open-ended, al Qaeda will have a valuable recruiting tool and 
our partners in Afghanistan will have an incentive to take the back 
seat, leaving U.S. troops and U.S. taxpayers on the hook.
  As our own ambassador to Afghanistan has reportedly stated, sending 
more troops for an indefinite period of time will only increase Afghan 
dependency upon the international community, exacerbate misconceptions 
about why we are there and further enable Afghan leadership to shun 
responsibility. I do not know what led the ambassador to ultimately 
endorse the open-ended commitment of additional troops, but I believe 
his concerns remain valid today. Indeed, President Karzai's recent 
statements before a variety of audiences only raise more questions 
about his willingness to take the necessary steps to address corruption 
and security.
  This bill does not itself set a specific date for the withdrawal of 
U.S. troops. Rather, it requires the President to set a timeline by 
which the redeployment of U.S. troops will be completed and to identify 
what variables, if any, would warrant the alteration of that timeline. 
While the President has set detailed objectives and metrics for 
Afghanistan, many of our objectives are dependent upon the conduct of 
officials in the Afghan and Pakistani governments, both of which have 
been unreliable partners for many years. We must make clear to our 
partners in both countries that our support is not unconditional and 
that we will not continue to bear the burden of our current military 
deployment indefinitely.
  Some of my colleagues have suggested that we should give the 
President's new strategy in Afghanistan a ``chance'' to succeed. After 
over eight years of war, after so many lost lives and hundreds of 
billions of dollars spent, I think we need to ask ourselves instead to 
consider whether an open-ended military presence makes sense. To me, 
that answer is clearly ``No.'' We will be putting at risk the lives of 
100,000 U.S. troops and spending tens of billions of dollars on a 
military effort that is neither necessary for the national security 
imperative of pursuing al Qaeda's global network, nor likely to succeed 
in remaking the situation on the ground in Afghanistan to a meaningful 
  Addressing the threat from al Qaeda and its affiliates around the 

[[Page S2297]]

must be our top national security priority. The attempted terrorist 
attack on Christmas Day serves as a reminder that we have not put 
adequate resources into this priority, especially in safe havens such 
as Yemen. We are spending in Yemen only a tiny of a fraction of what we 
are spending in Afghanistan even though, according to the President's 
top terrorism advisor, ``al Qaeda has several hundred members in 
Yemen.'' We need major adjustments in our global counter-terrorism 
strategy if we hope to defeat our enemy. Rather than investing a 
disproportionate amount of our resources in Afghanistan, where al Qaeda 
has a minimal presence, we need to shift resources to the urgent need 
of pursuing al Qaeda's global network.
  We do not need to maintain a massive military presence in Afghanistan 
in order to prevent al Qaeda from having freedom of movement in that 
country. Instead, we need a sustainable counter-terrorism strategy for 
the region that will also enable us to target any members of al Qaeda 
that make the mistake of returning. Drawing down U.S. troops from 
Afghanistan and better investing some of the billions needed to support 
them there would allow us to increase our ability to pursue al Qaeda as 
it continues to establish footholds in other locations around the 
  I also continue to be concerned that our massive military presence in 
Afghanistan has a destabilizing effect, both there and in Pakistan, and 
that our current strategy is overly dependent on actions by these two 
partners that have often proved unreliable. As our own ambassador 
reportedly noted, the last time we substantially increased forces in 
Afghanistan, namely the deployment of 33,000 additional troops in 2008 
and 2009, overall violence and instability increased.
  Our troop presence in Afghanistan has also provoked greater 
militancy. The reality is, our presence has driven militants across the 
border into Pakistan, and may be driving militant groups which normally 
have tense relationships closer together, compromising our ability to 
divide al Qaeda from its hosts in Pakistan.
  Furthermore, our current military strategy is unlikely to succeed in 
the face of the ongoing safe haven in Pakistan. The Director of 
National Intelligence recently testified that unless the Taliban's safe 
haven in Pakistan ``. . . is greatly diminished, the Taliban insurgency 
can survive defeats in Afghanistan.'' He went on to state that 
``Islamabad has maintained relationships with other Taliban-associated 
groups that support and conduct operations against U.S. and ISAF forces 
in Afghanistan.'' Until this sanctuary problem is fully addressed, any 
gains from sending additional U.S. forces may be fleeting.
  Some have argued that we must pursue an open-ended military campaign 
in Afghanistan if only to prevent instability in Afghanistan from 
spreading into Pakistan. I, too, am concerned about instability in 
Pakistan, but I strongly disagree that sending troops to Afghanistan 
has helped or will improve the situation. According to our intelligence 
community, instability in Pakistan is driven primarily by poor 
governance and lack of socioeconomic reform in Pakistan. Even if we 
increase stability in Afghanistan, Pakistan remains at risk if these 
issues are not addressed. We must convey to those in Pakistan who 
support reform that they have our long-term support. That doesn't mean 
spending many billions of dollars for several years on military 
operations in Afghanistan. It means making a sustainable commitment to 
reforms in Pakistan.
  We have to be realistic about our goals in Afghanistan. Without a 
legitimate Afghan partner, our tactical victories will likely be 
squandered. We may build outposts throughout Helmand and Kandahar but 
this has little meaning if we are unable to distinguish friend from foe 
and the Taliban is able to maintain shadow structures throughout the 
region. It does no good to ``clear'' an area of insurgents to be held 
by the Afghan police if the police are perceived to be corrupt or 
unreliable. Nor can military operations address the sense of alienation 
among the population in the South.
  Indeed, such operations may actually undermine long-term stability as 
they contribute, despite our best efforts, to civilian casualties. In 
regards to casualties from operations related to things like 
checkpoints and convoys, for example, Gen. McChrystal recently 
acknowledged that ``[w]e've shot an amazing number of people and killed 
a number and, to my knowledge, none ha[ve] proven to have been a real 
threat to the force.'' This only reinforces the image of the United 
States as a hostile, occupying force.
  Rather than spending $100 billion in Afghanistan in one year, 
primarily on military operations, it would be far better to make a 
sustainable commitment to this country. Long-term, gradual change is 
far more realistic than attempts to radically transform Afghan society 
at the point of a gun, especially when we have lost the support of key 
sections of the population. We must also prioritize efforts to promote 
the rule of law. Without the rule of law, our development efforts are 
vulnerable to waste, fraud and abuse and will further feed into the 
corruption that is alienating the population from the government. 
Indeed, Secretary Clinton has testified that ``siphoning off 
contractual money from the international community . . . [is] a major 
source of funding for the Taliban.''
  For too long, we have prioritized short term security goals at the 
expense of the rule of law. We have prioritized quantity over quality 
in the Afghan National Security Forces. We have compromised the state's 
monopoly over the use of violence by partnering with--in Gen. 
McChrystal's words--``polarizing and predatory'' powerbrokers. We have 
turned a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuses. If we get 
serious about these issues, it will do more to stabilize the situation 
than anything we can accomplish by conducting military operations. 
After so many years in which our military efforts have been 
shortchanged by the focus on Iraq, we cannot simply turn back the clock 
and assume that what may have been achievable militarily in Afghanistan 
years ago is still achievable today.
  Even if my colleagues support the President's strategy in 
Afghanistan, they should acknowledge the need to set a goal for when it 
should be brought to a close. While I have serious doubts about the 
wisdom of the current approach, as I have explained, and about pursuing 
an expansive nation-building agenda in the face of the economic 
problems facing our own country and the rising casualty rates in 
Afghanistan, this bill does not dictate a particular strategy for 
Afghanistan. Rather, it simply requires the President to inform the 
American people about how long his military strategy is expected to 
  I urge my colleagues to support this bill.
      By Mr. UDALL of Colorado (for himself, Mr. Begich, Mrs. 
        McCaskill, Ms. Landrieu, Mr. Warner, Mr. Nelson of Nebraska, 
        Mr. Bennet, Mr. Leahy, Ms. Mikulski, Mrs. Murray, Mr. Kerry, 
        Mr. Bayh, Ms. Klobuchar, Mrs. Lincoln, Mr. Casey, Mr. Menendez, 
        Mr. Cardin, Mr. Brown of Ohio, Mr. Sanders, Mr. Lautenberg, Mr. 
        Whitehouse, and Mr. Durbin):
  S. 3201. A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to extend 
TRICARE coverage to certain dependents under the age of 26; to the 
Committee on Armed Services.
  Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, I rise to speak about health 
insurance reform. I wanted to remind all of us that last month we 
successfully passed health insurance reform, upon which I think we will 
have a very strong foundation to build, improve, and strengthen access 
to health care all across America.
  Throughout the long and critically important debate on how best to 
fix our system, I came to the floor on many occasions, as did the 
Presiding Officer and a lot of my freshman Senators, to discuss the 
need for reform. I believe the bill that President Obama signed into 
law will help struggling Colorado families and hopefully our struggling 
economy as well.
  So I think you and I agree there is a lot of work left to be done, 
and no bill of this magnitude and importance is perfect. To implement 
this new law is a major undertaking that will require us in the 
Congress to revisit and improve upon what we have already done.

[[Page S2298]]

  In that spirit, I come to the Senate floor to introduce a bill that I 
believe is a great way to start making those improvements. I thank 
Senators Begich and McCaskill for working with me to develop a bill, 
and Senator Mikulski for her hard work and energy and support as well.
  Our legislation is entitled ``The TRICARE Dependent Coverage 
Extension Act.'' It would help fulfill this important goal of the 
health insurance reform that the Presiding Officer and I support; that 
is, giving young adults the opportunity to remain on their parents' 
health care plan until the age of 26.
  Young adults across our country are struggling to enter the job 
market as we get our economy back on track, and this legislation will 
ensure that the families of our military servicemembers are not left 
behind when this benefit goes into effect later this year for millions 
of civilian families and their children.
  Currently, the TRICARE Program, which provides health insurance for 
military servicemembers, retirees, and their families, covers children 
up to the age of 21, or in some cases up to the age of 23 if they are 
full-time college students.
  The TRICARE Dependent Coverage Extension Act will give young adults 
of these military families who have not been able to find health care 
insurance through an employer the opportunity to pay a reasonable 
premium and remain covered until their 26th birthday on their parents' 
  Health reform, I think we agree, is meant to ensure that all 
Americans have access to affordable health care coverage. I cannot 
think of any of our countrymen more deserving of the peace of mind 
envisioned by this new law than members of our Armed Forces and their 
  They, in countries all over the world, make tremendous sacrifices 
every day for our Nation. I think it is over 60 different countries 
that we have servicemembers serving around the world. They deserve 
benefits that will keep them healthy and secure.
  In addition to the three Senators I mentioned, Begich, McCaskill, and 
Mikulski, there are 19 of our Democratic colleagues who have also 
joined in supporting this legislation. I think this outpouring of 
support on short notice is indicative of how beneficial the bill will 
be for the families of our armed servicemembers.
  Now, we have had our disagreements with the other side of the aisle 
on how best to reform our health care system as a whole. But I think 
there are certain areas of common interest we can still find and come 
together on to improve the lives of the people we are here to serve. I 
think this is one of those instances, and I want to offer my hand to 
our Republican friends and hope they will join a group of us in 
cosponsoring this important piece of legislation.
  I sit on the Armed Services Committee in the Senate, and I served on 
the Armed Services Committee in the House. I would like to think I 
learned how to spot a good deal for our Nation's soldiers and their 
families, and this is a good deal.
  Again, I would encourage all 100 Senators to consider joining us in 
this important, straightforward, cost-efficient idea that I am 
presenting today.