Lincoln on Afghanistan: Open-Ended Commitment Not An Option

Washington – U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln this evening responded to President Obama’s plan for American troop commitments in Afghanistan:

“Tonight, after prolonged consultations with senior military officials and civilian advisers, the President announced a plan to send an additional 34,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. This will bring the number of American troops in Afghanistan to around 100,000. The President also announced an additional commitment 6,000 troops from coalition allies, bringing the total number of NATO and allied troops to approximately 41,000. In making this commitment, these 41 countries are placing their troops in harm’s way to provide Afghanis with a chance to succeed and bring greater stability to their country.

“However, our window of opportunity is closing and we cannot ignore the lessons of the past. An open-ended commitment of U.S. troops and taxpayer dollars is not an option. Afghani ownership of these responsibilities is undoubtedly the most essential ingredient for long-term stability. I am encouraged that President Obama’s plan includes benchmarks that will measure the progress of the Afghani government and ultimately hold them accountable for moving toward reform and a greater assumption of their own responsibilities. Yet I maintain many concerns about the level of corruption currently in the Karzai government. If we are to have an effective partner moving forward, it cannot be with a government that steals from its own people and denies them basic rights such as free elections. After all, an ‘Afghan solution’ is not that can be imposed upon the Afghanis, it is one that must be supported and sustained by the Afghani people.
“Thousands of Arkansans have served honorably in this war, and 15 have paid the ultimate sacrifice. This spring, along with a number of active duty troops, we will see contingents from two Arkansas National Guard units deploy to Afghanistan. In sending them to war, we have an obligation to provide them with absolutely everything they need to complete their mission safely and successfully, and to provide them the care and services they need upon their return home.

“We also have an obligation to provide them with a long-term strategy that better defines our goals and intentions. For too long, our uniformed men and women in Afghanistan have been denied a priority of focus and a comprehensive strategy that is worthy of their sacrifice. This war has been short-changed for the past several years and that is largely responsible for the escalating violence and deteriorating security conditions we see today. As this war continues into its eighth year, Arkansans are growing more skeptical of additional and seemingly unlimited investments of American lives and treasure into Afghanistan. At a time when so many working families are struggling to make ends meet, this kind of open-ended commitment is simply not acceptable and it is not feasible.

“As the President proceeds with his new strategy in Afghanistan, the security of our nation and the well-being of our uniformed men and women will continue to be my highest priority. Throughout my public service, I have done everything I can to ensure our troops and their families have everything they need during combat, and that their service is properly recognized upon their return home. On our behalf, they have served in some of the harshest conditions imaginable and have certainly earned as much. Those currently serving remain in my thoughts and prayers, and a grateful nation looks forward to welcoming them with open arms upon their safe return home.”