Colorado Democratic Congressman Jared Polis has been arguing against U.S. occupation policy in Afghanistan his entire first year in office. He joined a Congressional Delegation visiting the country last spring and he demonstrated in a speech today on the floor of the House that he continues to be very much committed to the issue. Speaking without notes, Polis encouraged his colleagues to support the Afghanistan War Powers Resolution introduced last week by Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich. The Resolution calls for withdrawal from Afghanistan by no later than the end of the year.
Polis will be criticized by War on Terror hawks for what they see as his advocating surrender or at least quitting before the job is done. Polis, though, is no dove. He sees the real threat as the ongoing existence of al Qaeda and makes the case for dedicating our resources not to occupation — in Afghanistan and Iraq– but to rooting out al Qaeda, “a stateless menace,” with focused special operations. At one point in his speech he said that there may now be as few as 50 al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan.
Polis earlier today:
Mr. Speaker, this nation does face a very real and immediate terrorist threat. The terrorist threat stems from al Qaeda, which is a statelessness menace, a menace that is not rooted in any one location or has any dominion in one particular area. In fact, the two countries that this, our nation continues to occupy, namely Iraq and Afghanistan, are not significant bases of operations for al Qaeda. It has been recently reported that there are, in fact, only around 50 al Qaeda operatives in the entire nation of Afghanistan and there could be 10 times that number in nations like Yemen and Pakistan.
Yes, there is a very real threat, but the answer is NOT to continue to indefinitely occupy countries where we only breed more sympathy with those who would do us harm. The correct and more important way to leverage American military might to combat this menace is to have targeted and aggressive intelligence gathering and targeted special operations against the terrorists no matter where they are.
Some have expressed concerns that if we leave Afghanistan precipitously, al Qaeda could reassert itself there. The answer to that is to go after al Qaeda, in a targeted way, in Afghanistan if the need arises again. It is NOT to engage in an indefinite occupation of one or two particular countries. How many more countries would we need to occupy? If they’re in Yemen, do we occupy Yemen? If they’re in Pakistan, do we occupy Pakistan? If we weren’t already in and occupying Afghanistan, would we choose to go in there today? I would submit that the answer is no.
We need to continue our effort to battle terrorists wherever they are and focus on this stateless menace through intelligence gathering, targeted, special operations, and a refocused emphasis on homeland security—all of which our very costly and expensive operation in Afghanistan continues to reduce our ability to do, by soaking up our national time and resources, as well as costing the lives of American soldiers. I yield back.