Washington , DC – Congressman Ike Skelton (D-MO), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, released the following statement after today’s Full Committee hearing on security and stability in Afghanistan :


“I was a member of Speaker Pelosi’s Congressional delegation that visited Afghanistan a few days ago, and this trip confirmed my concerns that the forgotten war there demands increased attention.  In the days following the 9/11 attacks, Afghanistan was the center of our effort to fight the terrorists who attacked our country.  But after the invasion of Iraq, our efforts in Afghanistan lost the focus and urgency required to help that proud nation rebuild and recover from more than two decades of armed conflict. 


“U.S. and coalition forces were quickly able to remove the Taliban from power in 2001, but we failed to capitalize on that success.  Segments of  the Taliban leadership have regrouped and Al Qaeda terrorists are still finding hiding places on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border from which to operate.  The increasing number of attacks in the last year are very troubling and do not bode well for what’s to come this spring, when the fighting is expected to intensify once again.


“But in spite of the security challenges before the Afghan people and the international community, I am convinced that we can make major progress in bringing security to Afghanistan if adequate forces are contributed to this effort.  I commend the work of the American troops currently serving there as well as the significant contributions of the NATO-led ISAF force.  But it is also critical that we keep urging our international partners to follow through on their commitments and contribute additional combat forces. 


“Having spoken with commanders in the field, it is my sense that the additional U.S. troops recently committed to Afghanistan will help prepare for the expected increase in hostilities in the spring, although I remain concerned about the stress and strain this will have on our troops.  The President’s upcoming supplemental budget request will reportedly include additional funds for Afghanistan, and I take this as an encouraging sign.  Afghanistan will require a long-term commitment to deal with the challenges of economic development, governance, and eradication of drugs if it is to be truly secure.  We must put forward a comprehensive and long-term strategy that finally gives Afghanistan the attention it demands in the war on terror.”