Lexington, Missouri -- House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) released the following statement to call attention to the heroic work of U.S. and NATO forces to bring security to the people of Afghanistan in the days leading up to Afghanistan’s national elections on August 20, 2009:


            "I call on every American to take a moment to consider and honor the sacrifices being made by U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. 

            "In recent days, U.S. Marines have been actively engaged in Helmand Province.  Each day brings a new story of the difficult fight our Marines are facing, but along with their partners in the Afghan Army and Police, these brave Marines are taking away a little more of this vital region from the Taliban and bringing security to the population.  I am hopeful that this effort will provide the security people need to participate in Afghanistan’s upcoming national elections, so that Afghans can begin to build the kind of country they want and deserve, rather than a nation dominated by radical Taliban leaders and Al Qaeda. 

            "While the United States has been fighting in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and destroy Al Qaeda for almost eight years, for a long time Afghanistan was the forgotten war.  Our renewed focus on Afghanistan, including decisions to increase the number of forces and resources available to this critical fight, leads me to believe we are now moving in the right direction.  Commanding General Stanley McChrystal’s ongoing 60-day strategic assessment should demonstrate how the U.S. military and our NATO partners can support the effort to build a new Afghanistan by engaging with and protecting the population, building the Afghan security forces and the Afghan system of government, and more effectively taking the fight to the Taliban and their Al Qaeda allies. 

            "Building a free and secure Afghanistan is a vital element in the fight to eliminate Al Qaeda and its ability to attack us again.  We must never take for granted the heroic sacrifices our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are making on our behalf to keep America safe."