AS PRESIDENT BIDEN CHARTS COURSE TO WITHDRAW TROOPS FROM AFGHANISTAN, HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS RE-LAUNCHES NATIONAL SECURITY TASK FORCE
WASHINGTON – Following President Biden’s historic announcement to fully withdraw United States troops from Afghanistan, the House Democratic Caucus re-launched its National Security Task Force to work with the Biden-Harris administration on our most critical national security decisions. The House Democratic Caucus National Security Task Force is led by Co-Chairs Reps. Jason Crow (D-CO), Andy Kim (D-NJ) and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), and Chair Emeritus Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA).
“After four years of chaos and confusion coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, House Democrats are working with President Biden and Vice President Harris to protect the homeland, re-engage with our allies and bring our troops home from Afghanistan safely after 20 years of war,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Chair of the House Democratic Caucus. “There is no better group than my colleagues Representatives Jason Crow, Andy Kim, Mikie Sherrill and Seth Moulton to ensure that we chart a tough and smart national security strategy and honor the servicemembers that have served our country so valiantly in Afghanistan over the last two decades.”
“It is far more difficult to end wars than to start them. We must end this war, and we must end it for good. Congress has a duty to the men and women who serve the country to shape the drawdown with the Biden Administration so that we don’t wind up sending service members back in the future. Our caucus will be a strong partner on Capitol Hill and across the country as we explain these decisions to the American people,” said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), Chair Emeritus of the National Security Task Force. “As we look beyond Afghanistan at increasingly powerful adversaries in China and Russia, the House Democratic Caucus’s National Security Task Force will also offer the expertise of Member of Congress who have served the country to our colleagues so that Congress can prepare the nation for the threats we will face in the future.”
In a call with reporters earlier today, leaders of the newly relaunched task force reacted to the president’s Afghanistan announcement.
CAUCUS VICE CHAIR AGUILAR: The U.S. military presence in Afghanistan has now spanned four presidencies. I commend President Biden on ensuring that this decision does not fall to a fifth. The goals that were laid out when we first moved troops to Afghanistan two decades ago have been accomplished, and I'm grateful for the President's leadership in making this decision to focus on diplomacy and to keep our service members out of harm's way.
NSTF CO-CHAIR CROW: After two combat tours in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger and a member of the Joint Special Operations Task Force, this is a very personal issue to me. For those of us who fought in Afghanistan and lost friends, a certain part of us will always be in Afghanistan. But as a member of Congress now, I also know that there is no military solution to this, that if there had been a military solution we would have found one many years ago after 20 years.
We have to have a shift in course. There is risk everywhere in the world. We face risk in Europe and Africa and Asia and South America and our own homeland. So, the issue is not whether or not there is risk in Afghanistan, but whether or not the limited resources that we have available merit a continued presence and expense of billions of dollars and thousands of troops. And that is the question facing us. And I have certainly some concerns about making sure that we are putting some guardrails in place. I look forward to working with the administration, but I approach this issue as much a veteran as a member of Congress. I started my military career as a Private and I think about my time as Private Crow and that's why I have outlined a couple of priorities to the administration that I look forward to working with them on over the next couple of months.
The first of those is protecting our troops. As we draw down and there are fewer and fewer troops in Afghanistan and fewer soldiers remaining to defend our operating bases, those who are remaining are more and more vulnerable. I will be using my position as a member of the Intelligence Committee and Armed Services Committee to ask those tough questions and make sure that we are doing right by our men and women in uniform.
The second is honoring our allies. NATO went there with us, they fought and died alongside us for the last 20 years. There are, in fact, more NATO troops in Afghanistan than there are U.S. troops right now. And the only time in the history of NATO that the Article Five self-defense obligations have been invoked was after 9/11. We have to make sure we're doing this in coordination with our allies as well.
And the last is putting some process in place to do right by those many Afghanis, those thousands of Afghani men and women who served as translators, served alongside us and at great personal risk to themselves, and their families are now at risk as we draw down. We have to make sure that we are drastically ramping up the Special Immigrant Visa program and other processes to get folks out of the country for their own safety and the safety of their families in the months ahead.
So we will all be engaging with the administration. There is a federal law, the National Defense Authorization Act, that passed earlier this year that requires the administration under Section 1215 to engage with Congress and have this conversation about the issues I outlined and look forward to working with the administration to do just that.
NSTF CO-CHAIR KIM: I want to just start by taking a step back here and just thinking about and reflecting upon the time that we live in right now. We're currently living through this paradigm shift in global politics. This is a moment that is akin to that of 9/11 and the fall of the Berlin Wall, where we are entering a new era of foreign policy. Now, the question is, what is this going to look like? And that's very much up in the air right now. We were already heading in this direction, even before the pandemic, with this rise of great power competition. But the pandemic and Covid-19 has made this much more definitive break from the previous moment that we lived in before. And with this question of what is this world going to look like, what is this new paradigm, and era of global politics going to look like, we need to think about what is the United States' role in shaping this new era in a way that is going to strengthen the potential for American continued global leadership. That is a responsibility that we all have and we cannot just allow for us to move through this new era passively. Instead, we should be taking strong steps to be able to set the terms in which this new era will be shaped. There is a certain malleability to the international system during these changes and paradigm shifts, and these tectonic plates are shifting beneath us right now and now is our effort to try to harness the full potential of the United States national security capabilities to be able to shape this in a way advantageous for America.
What we saw yesterday was the emergence of a Biden doctrine, a Biden doctrine that recognizes the shift in global politics, recognizes that this is a historic moment for us to step up and say definitively that we are going to step up and do everything we can to shape this in the direction that would be most advantageous for America's continued leadership, for our continued strength of our economy and our continued national security and ability to protect the American people and our interests. We see some of the core principles of this Biden doctrine emerging. Our focus is on American competitiveness, strengthening our global infrastructure through alliances and reinvestment in international institutions, as well as a posture for addressing transnational threats, including the pandemic and climate change, and recognizing that transnational problems require transnational solutions and we need to be much more prepared for that going forward. So I see this as an important marker and a historic marker in pushing forward the kind of resolve that we need to address the next 50 years, the next era of foreign policy, and for us to emerge out from this pandemic into a world different from the one that we socially distanced from with a kind of resolve and aggressiveness and momentum that we need to, rather than just emerging passively and allowing other actors to define the environment in which we are living in. So I just wanted to provide a bit of that context from what I see, that this is such a monumental decision for so many reasons. But for me, I'm very much focused on what happens next and how we win this next era.
NSTF CO-CHAIR SHERRILL: Yesterday's announcement was not one that any of us took lightly. We have friends and loved ones who have given their lives in Afghanistan, many who have come back but continue to suffer from combat related service in Afghanistan and their families who suffer alongside them. But those sacrifices have allowed us here at home to be safe from further major terrorist attacks like we saw on 9/11. But we've now been in this conflict for 20 years and Afghanistan is no longer a haven for al Qaeda. Afghan people have a democratically elected government. Women and girls are going to school and participating in the public arena, particularly in the urban areas. So, we can't continue this cycle of extending our military presence to create perfect conditions for withdrawal.
I really applaud the President for the deliberative way that he's made this decision. His announcement yesterday came after months of consultation with experts, our national security and defense officials and, importantly, our allies. It's been such a marked contrast to the former president's handling of this issue. I think it speaks volumes that the Secretary General of NATO stood alongside Secretary Austin and Secretary Blinken yesterday to discuss the path forward. And after our announcement, our allies, those same allies who have stood shoulder to shoulder with us since the aftermath of 9/11, to this day, they made similar announcements. We're acting in concert.
I know there are concerns about the impact of our withdraw and the impact it will have on Afghanistan, so I want to highlight a really important fact: We're withdrawing combat troops, but we're not ending our relationship with Afghanistan. We'll continue to have a robust diplomatic and humanitarian presence there and we'll continue to invest in Afghanistan's stability, infrastructure and national defense.
Audio of the full press call and Q&A can be viewed here.
Co-Chair Jason Crow is former Army Ranger, having served our country in both Iraq and Afghanistan and as member of the Joint Special Operations Task Force.
Co-Chair Andy Kim served at USAID, the Pentagon, the State Department, the White House National Security Council and in Afghanistan as an advisor to Generals Petraeus and Allen.
Co-Chair Mikie Sherrill spent almost 10 years on active duty in the United States Navy where she flew missions throughout Europe and the Middle East as a Sea King helicopter pilot, worked on the Battle Watch Floor in the European Theater during the Iraq invasion and served as a Flag Aide to the Deputy Commander in Chief of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
Chair Emeritus Seth Moulton joined the Marines in 2001, days after graduating from college and months before the attacks on 9/11. As the leader of an infantry platoon, he was among the first Americans to reach Baghdad in 2003 and served four total tours.
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