Led by Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the House Armed Service Committee’s ranking Democrat, the delegation met with top U.S. military officials including Marine Four-Star General Joe Dunford, commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan. They were briefed on the drawdown of American troops, the transition of responsibility to the Afghanistan National Security Force and the supporting role our troops are now playing. Swalwell’s office reports he also met with troops from his own 15th Congressional District, as well as local Afghan leaders and military officers.
In the UAE, the lawmakers were briefed by military and intelligence officials on the developing situation in Syria as well as the strategic partnership between the UAE and the United States.
“I was encouraged to see that the efforts of our Armed Forces have better prepared Afghan troops to play a primary security role in the region as we significantly reduce our troop levels in Afghanistan,” Swalwell said in a news release issued Thursday. “I especially appreciated the opportunity to visit with our brave men and women serving in Afghanistan, including several of my constituents.
“Since being sworn-in back in January, I’ve been able to celebrate many troop homecomings from Afghanistan in the East Bay and also sadly have eulogized at a funeral of local hero who gave his life serving in Operation Enduring Freedom,” he added. “It was an honor to visit our troops in Afghanistan to express my appreciation for their service to our country and dedication to a smooth transition of power as we step back to play a supporting role. Our troops’ preparation of the Afghan Forces will help ensure that the country is never again a safe harbor and training ground for terrorists who wish to plan attacks against Americans.”
A soldier from Antioch will become the fifth living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan, the White House announced today.
President Barack Obama on Aug. 26 will award U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ty Carter the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry, recognizing his courage while serving as a cavalry scout with Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations in Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on Oct. 3, 2009.
When his fellow soldiers and a nearby combat outpost came under attack from a battalion-sized enemy force, Carter, a specialist at the time, ran repeatedly through heavy enemy fire to bring critical ammunition to his position.
Armed only with only an M4 carbine, he beat back the assault force for several hours. Despite being wounded, he disregarded his own personal safety to assist a critically wounded comrade. He administered first aid and carried the wounded soldier through withering enemy fire. Throughout the battle, Carter exposed himself to the enemy no fewer than six times as he crossed treacherous ground where eight fellow soldiers were killed.
Carter grew up in Spokane, Wash., but now calls Antioch home; he’s married to Shannon Carter and they have three children, Jayden Young, Madison Carter and Sehara Carter.
He enlisted in the Army in January 2008 as a cavalry scout, and after training at Ft Knox, Kentucky, he was assigned to 3-61 Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, where he deployed to Afghanistan from May 2009 to May 2010. In October 2010 he was assigned as a Stryker gunner with 8-1 Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He completed a second deployment to Afghanistan in October 2012, and now is stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., assigned to the 7th Infantry Division.
His other military decorations include the Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Army Good Conduct Medal, Navy Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two Campaign Stars, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon w/Numeral 2, Army Service Ribbon, Oversea Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, the Combat Action Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge and Air Assault Badge.
The Medal of Honor is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
The meritorious conduct must involve great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life. There must be incontestable proof of the performance of the meritorious conduct, and each recommendation for the award must be considered on the standard of extraordinary merit.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, who is retiring from Congress in a few weeks, this morning delivered her 444th and final special order speech expressing her opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and her support for a “smart” approach to national security:
Woolsey, D-San Rafael, will be succeeded in the next Congress by Rep.-elect Jared Huffman, a fellow Democrat; the newly drawn 2nd Congressional District stretches from the Golden Gate Bridge’s north end to the Oregon border.
Most of the Bay Area’s House delegation was among 101 members who signed a letter, co-authored by Rep. Barbara Lee, urging President Obama to announce an accelerated transition of security responsibilities to the Afghan government and security forces.
The lawmakers want the president to announce this at the upcoming NATO summit meeting in Chicago, in order to effect a speedier withdrawal of U.S. troops.
“Earlier this month you visited Afghanistan to sign a Strategic Partnership Agreement. As you stated at Bagram Air Base, ‘this time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end,’” the lawmakers wrote. “The core of al Qaeda has been greatly reduced in size and ability to attack Americans. Our brave men and women in uniform have done everything that we have asked of them. With over 17,000 dead and wounded U.S. servicemen and women, and long term costs estimated at $4 trillion for the past decade of unfunded wars, the overwhelming majority of American people want to bring the war in Afghanistan to an expedited end.”
The lawmakers wrote that while many of them would prefer an immediate full withdrawal, there’s broad bipartisan consensus that the process at least should be speeded up. “We also remind you that any agreement committing U.S. troops to Afghanistan must have congressional approval to be binding.”
The only Bay Area members who didn’t sign the letter – which Lee, D-Oakland, coauthored with Walter Jones, R-N.C. – were Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.
Lee also this afternoon offered an amendment to H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act, which would’ve limited further funding for the Afghanistan war to only what’s required for the safe and orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops and contractors.
Lee’s amendment failed on a 113-303 vote. “My amendment provided members of the House the opportunity to stand squarely with the war-weary American people,” she said in a statement issued afterward. “I am disappointed that a majority of House members did not stand with seven out of ten Americans who oppose the war in Afghanistan.”
Gov. Jerry Brown ordered flags flown at half-staff over the State Capitol today in honor of Army Staff Sgt. Thomas Fogarty, 30, of Alameda, who was killed May 6 by an improvised explosive device in Ahmad-Kheyl, Afghanistan.
Fogarty was assigned to the 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. He had arrived in Afghanistan only last month.
Brown said he and first lady Anne Gust Brown offer their deepest condolences to Fogarty’s family and friends; he’ll be sending them an official letter as well.
The U.S-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement that President Barack Obama signed yesterday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai is drawing plaudits from congressional Democratic leaders, but not from some of the caucus’ more liberal members.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, issued this statement yesterday:
“The signing of the U.S.-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement advances President Obama’s efforts to return the responsibility for Afghan security to the Afghan people. Many of us in Congress have been steadfast in expressing our opposition to an extended military presence in Afghanistan; this agreement moves us toward the day when all U.S. troops have been brought safely home.
“We have come to this moment because of the bravery of our troops and the sacrifices they and their families have been willing to make. In Afghanistan, and around the world, they have performed excellently.
“One year ago, with the death of Osama bin Laden, President Obama sent a clear message that we will pursue those who intend to do our nation harm and will never lose focus on our responsibility to keep our nation safe.
“President Obama has reiterated his commitment to the security of the American people and to end the war in Afghanistan responsibly.”
But Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland – who was the lone vote against authorizing the Bush Administration’s use of force after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and who is a member of the Out of Afghanistan Caucus – issued this statement today:
“I had hoped that President Obama would have seized this opportunity to announce an expedited end to the war in Afghanistan. Instead of speeding the transition to a fully independent Afghanistan, the newly signed U.S.-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership agreement is an open-ended commitment that could extend our presence at least another ten years. After ten long years of war, nearly two-thirds of Americans say the war is not worth fighting. It is past time for our policy to catch up with the American people. As it is widely acknowledged, there is no military solution in Afghanistan. We need to end the war now.”
From the other side of the aisle, here’s what Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had to say yesterday:
“I am pleased that President Obama has returned to Afghanistan. Our troops and the American people deserve to hear from our President about what is at stake in this war. Success in Afghanistan is vital to our nation’s security. It would be a tragedy for Afghanistan and a strategic setback for America if the Taliban returned to power and once again created a sanctuary for terrorists. We tolerated such a sanctuary until we lost thousands on September 11, 2001. Many brave Americans have sacrificed everything so that we could win this fight for a more secure future. Let us honor the memory of the fallen, not only by keeping them in our daily thoughts but also by staying true to their commitment. We are united as one nation in our gratitude to our country’s heroes.”
President Barack Obama is in Afghanistan for a whirlwind visit that will culminate in a live, televised address to the American people tonight, according to pool reports just forwarded by the White House.
Obama is expected to sign a strategic partnership agreement shortly with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, pledging U.S. support for Afghanistan for a decade after NATO forces’ planned end to combat operations in 2014. The president will address the nation at 4:30 p.m. PDT today.
Members of the Bay Area’s congressional delegation are speaking out this week on the 10th anniversary of our war in Afghanistan.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, spoke about it on the House floor yesterday:
This morning, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, hosted a Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Task Force hearing entitled “Ten Years On: Why the War in Afghanistan Must End Now.”
“After ten years and $460 billion invested in an unstable country with untrustworthy leadership, it is past time to end the war in Afghanistan,” she said. “Ten years is ten years too long for this wasteful war; it is time to bring our troops and our tax dollars home. That’s why I introduced HR 780 to safely and swiftly redeploy all combat troops and military contractors from Afghanistan.”
Academics, other experts and antiwar advocates discussed the cost of ten years of endless warfare since the overly broad Authorization of Use of Military Force was approved in 2001.
“The costs in blood and treasure in Afghanistan for the U.S., its allies, and for Afghans have been underestimated and undercounted. A comprehensive accounting shows that the intensity of the war is increasing, not decreasing,” said Nita Crawford, a Boston University political science professor and foreign policy expert.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, spoke at the hearing as well as at a separate, bipartisan event discussing the war’s anniversary; among other House members there were Ron Paul, R-Texas, Walter Jones, R-N.C., John Duncan, R-Tenn., and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa. There, Woolsey called the anniversary cause for “sober and solemn reflection:”
“On this occasion let’s remember the 1,800 brave servicemembers who’ve given their lives in Afghanistan over the last decade. Their service and sacrifice couldn’t be more honorable; the mission they were sent on, however, was a moral disgrace.
“Let’s also acknowledge the thousands of Afghan civilians caught in the line of fire and killed for the cause of their so-called liberation. They are casualties of this war and must not be forgotten either.
“We have paid too high a price in blood and treasure over the last 10 years….too high a price for a policy that has not advanced our national security interests.
“This war would be a ripoff at any cost, but when I think about the fact that it’s costing us $10 billion every month, it takes my breath away.
“$10 billion a month! Think of what we could do with $10 billion a month. We could use it to help create the jobs the American people need. $10 billion a month could pay for a lot of Pell Grants, a lot of Head Start slots, a lot of Medicare reimbursements, a lot of school lunches.
“For pennies on the dollar, we can and we must invest in an entirely new approach to protecting America, one that emphasizes diplomacy, multilateral cooperation and peaceful conflict resolution.
“I call this platform Smart Security, and I’ve been promoting it just about every day for the last several years. Instead of invasions and occupations, Smart Security offers other nations partnership and humanitarian aid.
“Instead of a military surge, it promises a much bolder civilian surge that shows American compassion…that embodies the very best American values…that fights poverty, promotes education, rebuilds infrastructure and restores hope.
“The American people have had enough of this war. A new poll even shows that only half of post 9/11 veterans think the Afghanistan war was worth fighting. Isn’t it time we listened to them? Isn’t it time public policy caught up with public sentiment on this life-and-death issue?
“Moral decency, fiscal sanity and public opinion all tell us to do the same thing – after 10 long years, it’s time to bring the troops home.”
Woolsey has contributed to Oakland-based Peace Action West’s effort to mark the anniversary by gathering photos and stories from Californians and others around the nation showing how the war has changed people’s lives.
“Since the war started a decade ago, kids barely old enough to remember the start of the war have packed up to go and fight it,” said Rebecca Griffin, Peace Action West’s political director. “We’re asking people to tell their stories to show what spending a full decade at war really means for our country.”
Woolsey wrote, “Ten years ago, my grandchildren weren’t even born. Since then I have worked in Congress to bring our troops home so they, along with all Americans, can see a time when their country is not at war.”
Kelly Campbell, formerly of Oakland and now of Portland, Ore., wrote, “On the day the US started bombing Afghanistan, we held a memorial for my brother-in-law who was killed on 9/11. Later, I traveled to Afghanistan and joined with others to create 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.”
Sean Alexander of Pittsburg, who was just 11 years old when the war started, joined the Marine Corps at 19 and is now working to end the war. He wrote, “Only 11 years old ten years ago, I was MVP of my Little League baseball team. Now ten years after the war began, I’m fighting for my moral dignity that is to lay down my arms and stand for peace.”
The House today overwhelmingly approved a bill by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, to create a special State Department envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia.
The bill, HR 440, was introduced in January in the wake of increasing violence, targeted attacks and heightened discrimination against Christians in Iraq and Egypt, and persistent concerns in Afghanistan and Pakistan, among other nations. The House voted 402-20 today to approve it and send it on to the Senate.
Wolf co-chairs Congress’ bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, named for the late congressman from San Mateo. Threats against religious minorities have been increasing in recent months, he said, and the United States has an obligation to speak out for the voiceless, to develop policies to protect and preserve these communities, and to prioritize these issues in broader U.S. foreign policy.
“The U.S. government needs an individual who can respond and focus on the critical situation of religious minorities in these countries whose basic human rights are increasingly under assault,” Wolf said in today’s news release. “If the international community fails to speak out, the prospects for religious pluralism and tolerance in the region are bleak.”
Eshoo, who co-founded and co-chairs the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus with Wolf, has long pressed the State Department to develop a comprehensive policy to address the unique needs of small, indigenous faith communities in Iraq that are being targeted for violence.
“In a time of partisanship and polarization, it’s gratifying when members from both parties can come together to address the humanitarian crisis that’s been unfolding in the Middle East, and has not been given the attention it deserves,” she said. “As the daughter of Assyrian and Armenian immigrants who fled the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East, it’s terrifying to see history repeating itself in today’s Iraq. I’m hopeful that the special envoy created by this legislation will elevate the crisis of the Middle East’s religious minorities, giving them the diplomatic attention they so badly need and deserve.”
The House of Representatives today rejected Bay Area lawmakers’ attempts to cut the purse strings for the war in Afghanistan.
The House voted 133-295 on an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act by Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, that would’ve reduced U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 25,000 by next year’s end and saved taxpayers an estimated $25 billion in fiscal year 2012.
President Obama last month announced he plans to pull 10,000 U.S. troops out of Afghanistan this year and 23,000 more by next summer. That would leave about 70,000 troops in Afghanistan as of next summer, more than twice the number serving there when he took office in 2009, with more withdrawals through 2014.
“Our brave men and women are doing tremendous work, but they’re on the wrong mission in Afghanistan. We need to focus on Al Qaeda like a laser wherever they propagate, yes in Afghanistan, but also in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and even the United States,” Garamendi, an Armed Services Committee member, said in his news release today. “Our overextended troops and their overstressed families deserve a rapid drawdown from Afghanistan so that they can continue their lives without the constant threat of tragedy inherent in engaging in a five-sided 33-year-old Afghan civil war.”
Garamendi had advocated for the amendment on during a floor debate yesterday:
An amendment by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland – with original cosponsors including Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, as well as several Republicans – would’ve cut $33 billion to leave only “sufficient funds for the orderly withdrawal of combat forces and contractors from Afghanistan.” The House voted 97-322 on that one.