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:

“For too long, Afghanistan has been the forgotten war.  The House Armed Services Committee is dedicated to changing that, and I’m encouraged that the new Secretary of Defense has begun to focus more attention on Afghanistan as well.  In the last three weeks alone, Secretary Gates has led the completion of an Afghanistan Strategic Review, a request for supplemental assistance in the budget package, and efforts to press our NATO allies to fulfill their commitments. 

“I am optimistic that it is still possible to shape conditions that will yield positive results for the people of Afghanistan and I commend the Administration for its recent efforts.  Success, however, requires a comprehensive and well-coordinated strategy, one that demonstrates a long-term commitment to security and stability in Afghanistan. 

“The United States cannot do this alone. Our NATO partners are key to our work and have made commitments to the fight in Afghanistan.  Some have been involved in heavy combat and endured losses.  But many of our allies’ pledges to contribute troops and aid remain unfulfilled. Restrictive ‘national caveats’ also continue to limit the operations of some NATO forces.  General Eikenberry and our other witnesses at today’s hearing confirmed these conclusions.

“Our NATO partners must do much more to fulfill their promises to assist with military operations and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.  As our military leaders anticipate an increase in insurgent hostilities this spring, it is critical that the NATO-led ISAF force is prepared to meet this challenge.  Together with our international partners, we must ensure that the Taliban and Al Qaeda are destroyed for good and that Afghanistan no longer provides safe haven for terrorists.”