U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Calls For Renewed Focus On Afghanistan After Trip To 'The Front Lines Of The War On Terror'
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is calling for a renewed focus on fighting terrorism in Afghanistan after returning from a bipartisan congressional delegation trip to the war-torn country.
"Afghanistan represents the front lines of the war on terror," the Tucson lawmaker said today. "We are neglecting it and we are paying the price."
Giffords, a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, and four congressional colleagues spent two days in Afghanistan. They met with Arizona troops, top U.S. military commanders and Afghan government officials. The delegation also traveled to Pakistan to meet with President Pervez Musharraf and other government leaders.
The purpose of the trip was to survey the progress of ongoing operations in Afghanistan and to gauge the readiness of our forces to conduct counterinsurgency operations.
"We have neglected our mission in Afghanistan since the invasion of Iraq five years ago," Giffords said. "We have allowed a war of choice to overshadow a war we had to fight. The result, according to our own government, is a rise in lawlessness and violence in Afghanistan."
In a report released today, the U.S. State Department said that terrorist attacks have increased dramatically in Afghanistan and Pakistan because al-Qaida has successfully rebuilt some of its pre-September 11 capabilities. According to the report, terrorist attacks between 2006 and 2007 doubled in Pakistan and jumped 16 percent in Afghanistan.
Pakistan was wracked by 45 suicide bombings last year, up from 22 between 2002 and 2006. Among the bombings were the December attack that killed former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the October attack on her homecoming that killed 130 people, the worst suicide attack in Pakistani history.
"We cannot let this situation spiral out of control," Giffords said. "While I was in Afghanistan, terrorists tried to assassinate President Hamid Karzai, and earlier this week another attack killed 19 people and injured another 40. Something needs to be done and it needs to be done now."
While in Afghanistan, the delegation was briefed by U.S. Gen. Dan K. McNeill, commander of the International Security Assistance Force. Giffords asked about the training service members receive to succeed in their vital counterinsurgency efforts. The congresswoman is drafting legislation to expand language and cultural competency training in our Armed Forces.
"It became even clearer to me during this trip how critical these skills are on the front lines of the war on terrorism," Giffords said. "To defeat our enemies, we must know how they think. To build lasting friendships, we must be able to speak the same language and understand cultures very different from our own."
The delegation was led by U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington. It also included Republican Reps. Mike Conaway and Mac Thornberry of Texas, and Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania. Giffords was the only first-term lawmaker on the trip.
The congresswoman delivered letters for airmen from the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. To give the troops a taste of home, Giffords also brought chips, salsa, tortillas and hot sauce from one of her favorite Tucson restaurants, El Charro.