Miller Talks with NATO Defense College Students
Oct 22, 2009 -
I’d like to welcome all of you here today. It is a privilege to speak to the NATO Defense College Senior Course.
Along with Mr. Boozman, I had the opportunity to visit the NDC last November as part of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. We had a wonderful visit, and I’m happy we could bring you here to the U.S. House of Representatives and speak with you about some of the issues facing the NATO Allies.
Before I get to the topic at hand, I want to give you a brief background on the role of Congress in the national security decision-making process.
The U.S. Constitution divides responsibility for defense policy between the executive and legislative branch.
Congress and the President will sometimes struggle to agree on strategy—this is the essence of democracy.
Congress largely exercises its role through the budget process—including authorizations and appropriations—as well as its oversight responsibilities to ensure our policy and strategy is effective.
Congressional Committees in the House of Representatives with jurisdiction over National Security Policy include the House Armed Services Committee, Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, known as “HPSCI.”
I currently serve on the Armed Services Committee and the Intelligence Committee, as well as the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
In addition, I have the privilege to represent the First District of Florida, which is home to several military installations including Eglin Air Force Base, Air Force Special Operations Command, and Naval Air Stations Pensacola and Whiting Field.
I know many of you have deployed recently to Afghanistan or may find yourselves there in the near future, so I wanted to spend a few minutes discussing the war in Afghanistan, and specifically what I believe is the winning strategy for achieving our objectives and desired end state in Afghanistan.
I recently returned from a four-day trip to Afghanistan and had the opportunity to speak with many Afghans and NATO allied forces.
All of us here in this room know the challenges our armed forces face in Afghanistan. NATO countries have been part of the war since right after 9/11, and NATO officially took command of the ISAF in August of 2003.
For the past eight years, our countries have been fighting side-by-side to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban. But today we are at a crossroads, a pivotal moment in our future strategy for Afghanistan.
The situation has deteriorated. Insurgents have started making gains and Al Qaeda continues to operate in the Afghan-Pakistan border region.
As you know, commander of the NATO ISAF, General Stanley McChrystal, provided his assessment of Afghanistan in late August. He describes the growing insurgency as “serious,” one that requires significant action in the next 12 months or we may risk defeat.
But defeat is not an option. Congress, the Administration, and our NATO Allies must work together to provide a winning strategy in Afghanistan, one that will achieve our objective of protecting and stabilizing the people of Afghanistan.
I currently serve as the top Republican, known as the Ranking Member, of the Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, part of the House Armed Services Committee. Our responsibilities are heavily focused on special operations, irregular warfare, counterterrorism, and counterinsurgency.
This morning, our subcommittee held a hearing on the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. We heard from several experts including Dr. Fred Kagan from the American Enterprise Institute, Dr. Robert Pape from the University of Chicago, and Mr. Rick “Ozzie” Nelson from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The strategic options in Afghanistan range from immediate withdrawal to limited counterterrorism operations conducted by UAVs and a small number of special operation activities to General McChrytal’s strategy of a comprehensive, fully-resourced counterinsurgency.
The Armed Services Committee reviewed has reviewed these options, and I strongly agree with General McChrystal’s assessment that the only way to achieve our strategic and operational objectives is to conduct an expanded counterinsurgency operation.
For too long, our NATO forces have been singularly committed to targeting and destroying terrorists. And we have done an excellent job in this regard.
We are beating the terrorists. But we are losing momentum against the insurgents. A coordinated counterinsurgency, supported by additional ISAF troops from our allied countries, will allow us to regain the momentum against the insurgents and achieve victory. By providing additional troops, we can protect the people of Afghanistan and provide stability to both the people and their government.
And the people of Afghanistan must be our focus. Because it is the people of Afghanistan that will ultimately determine their own destiny, their own end-state. Eventually, the Afghan National Security Force will provide the stability their country requires.
But that time has not yet come. The ISAF must work to accelerate the growth and training of the ANSF, while continuing to provide protection from insurgents for the Afghan people. We must prepare the ANSF to take the lead in security operations, but continue to be prepared for the interim challenges we face until that transfer can take place.
In the near-term, it is up to us, the NATO Allies, to stabilize Afghanistan and defeat the insurgency.
Too often, we forget that the war in Afghanistan in not an American war or a British war or a war that belongs to any one country.
Afghanistan belongs to all of the NATO countries because this is a NATO-led campaign. It has been commanded by generals from Germany, Canada, Turkey, Italy, the UK, and the US. 24 countries have lost soldiers in Operation Enduring Freedom.
It is my sincere hope that our member countries will work together on preparing and implementing a successful strategy in Afghanistan.
Initiatives just like the NATO Defense College will be instrumental in maintaining a strong alliance. I’m told that your course includes representatives from 32 different countries, an astounding number which proves that we can and are fighting against the enemy as a cohesive coalition.
If we continue to work in partnership to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban insurgency, we will provide security for the Afghan people, we will promote stability in the region, and we will prevail against our enemies in Afghanistan.