The war in Afghanistan has taken a turn for the worse in recent years, largely because of a lack of attention by the previous administration which instead turned its attention to Iraq. Insurgent activity has surged and suicide bombing - a tactic previously unheard of in Afghanistan - has taken its toll on the war effort and the hearts and minds of the Afghani people. Once thought vanquished in the wake of the coalition invasion, the Taliban has since regrouped into a powerful and canny insurgency, launching record numbers of attacks on foreign troops.
I believe we need to refocus our efforts in Afghanistan to stifle the drug trade, work with tribal leaders to suppress the insurgency and help bolster the country's flagging economy. On a recent trip to Afghanistan, I was told by an Afghani official that a truck transporting agricultural goods from northern Afghanistan to the border with Pakistan will be stopped, on average, 27 times by bandits and government officials seeking bribes. This is unacceptable, and has to change in order for Afghanistan to become stable.
If Afghanistan decays into a failed state, it could lead to the rapid deterioration of an already-profoundly unstable Pakistan, inflaming regional tensions and providing an even more fertile recruiting ground for terrorist insurgents.
However, I have been very frustrated by the lack of progress in our efforts there, and voted against the most recent war spending bill to express my dissatisfaction with the way the current policy is working, and to signal my desire to review it.
But an increase in troop strength in Afghanistan is meaningless unless Pakistan gets serious about quelling the chaos that now reigns on its western border with Afghanistan. It does us no good to push the Taliban and any Al Qaeda forces out of southern Afghanistan if they will simply be able to temporarily take up residence in Pakistan and await our departure from the region. We need to engage with the Pakistani government, and get assurances that they will support our new mission in Afghanistan.
Our security as a nation is dependent on the pursuit of a truly regional strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and a safe exit from Iraq, which is now underway.