Kyl on Afghanistan, Missile Defense

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) today delivered remarks on the Senate floor about Afghanistan and the President’s decision to cancel the missile defense system that was scheduled to be deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic. The following are excerpts from his remarks:

“I was critical of the President's decision when he canceled the so-called missile shield that would have been located in Poland and in the Czech Republic – among other things, because I was concerned about the message that it sends to our allies in the region. After working with them to develop the political and public consensus for this missile shield, the United States essentially pulled the rug out from under these allies and left.” “I think we need to listen to the advice of the commander in the field, General McChrystal, who produced a very straightforward assessment of the situation in Afghanistan. Obviously the President is the Commander-in-Chief, and the decisions are his to make. And it is appropriate for him to rely upon others for advice as well as on the commander in the field. But there is a point at which the President's own strategy that he announced in March needs to be adequately resourced and we need to move forward.”

“My concern is that this continuing public debate is going to raise doubts around the world about the staying power of the United States and about our willingness to continue commitments that we make. Remember that the President himself called this a war of necessity, both during the campaign and after his inauguration. He stressed the fact that we had to do what it took to win in Afghanistan.”

“Some prominent Democrats have said that we shouldn't resource this the way that General McChrystal has announced. And this is why I think we're sending the wrong message. I understand there is some declining support for the war, but this is where presidential leadership comes in. It's where congressional leadership comes in. I remember during the debate over the Iraq war, we had a lot of armchair generals and a lot of pundits. There were even members of Congress who thought that they knew better. Well, it turns out General Petraeus was right. And thankfully, President Bush at the time followed his recommendations. And as a result, the surge in Iraq was successful.”

“General McChrystal and General Petraeus are essentially saying the same thing again. Remember, General McChrystal is an expert in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency policy. He understands it takes resources to find a counterinsurgency campaign because you not only have to defeat the enemy, but you have to hold the area you've taken until the indigenous forces – in this case the Afghan police and army – are trained in sufficient numbers to hold the territory.”

“He won the election, and he, now as Commander-in-Chief, has to make these critical decisions. Whether he likes it or not, he is a war president, and he will be judged by history, not only by his domestic agenda but by how well he leaves the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the key with Afghanistan is not to leave the country in the hands of dangerous Taliban or other terrorists who would work with al Qaeda and give them the kind of place they had before from which to train and plan attacks on the rest of the world.”

“And also at stake in this debate is the message we're sending to the rest of the world, to our allies in the Middle East, in the Persian Gulf, and Pakistan. Is it safe to throw in with the United States and to help us in our war against these terrorists, or because the United States may bug out when the going gets tough, do we decide to make good with the other side, as Pakistan has done in the past with various groups including the Taliban? That's part of what's at stake here. It's not just Afghanistan, but our reputation around the rest of the world as to how we deal with our allies and how we resolve conflicts that we get involved in.”