June 21, 2011

Manchin: It’s Time to Rebuild America, Not Afghanistan

In a letter to President Obama, Manchin calls for substantial and responsible reduction in the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and a renewed focus on the War on Terror

***Pathfire, Audio Available***

Washington, D.C.– In a conference call with West Virginia reporters today, United States Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) called on President Obama to begin a substantial and responsible reduction in the United States’ military presence in Afghanistan. With the country facing a death spiral of debt, Senator Manchin urged the President to focus this nation’s resources on rebuilding America, not rebuilding Afghanistan.

Audio of Senator Manchin’s comments is available here:

Senator Manchin’s comments are also available on Pathfire. Instructions for accessing Pathfire:

FTP links are available here:

HD Version… http://gp1d.senate.gov/sdmc/Manchin/062111_MANCHIN_6_PF.M2T
SD Version… http://gp1d.senate.gov/sdmc/Manchin/062111_MANCHIN_6_PF.MPG

Senator Manchin will send a letter to the President, asking him to make significant troop reductions and end the scope of our current mission in Afghanistan well before 2014. The letter is attached.

Also today, Senator Manchin delivered a speech on the Senate floor to fully outline the serious economic challenges we face in America, and why the time has come for President Obama pursue a different strategy. Excerpts from that speech are included.

“The time has come to make the difficult decision,” Senator Manchin said. “Charity begins at home. We can no longer afford to rebuild Afghanistan and America. We must choose. And I choose America.”

Senator Manchin traveled to Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in the region in February, met with local leaders and witnessed firsthand the significant challenges facing American troops bravely serving there.

 Excerpts of the speech, as prepared for delivery, are included below:

“Very soon, our nation, this esteemed body, and – in particular – the President of the United States will address two of the greatest challenges our nation currently faces. 

“The first is Afghanistan. 

“The second issue is raising the debt ceiling and confronting our nation’s unsustainable spending and debt.”

“To the average American, Afghanistan and raising our debt ceiling may seem unrelated, but they are – in fact – directly related.

“They are directly related to the hard fiscal and strategic choices our nation must make if we are to remain safe and secure in the coming decades.”


“The fiscal peril we face reminds me of the words that a former Senator said on this floor in declaring why he chose in 2006 to vote against raising the debt ceiling – when our national debt stood at $8.18 trillion.”

“He said, and I quote,

The rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy, robbing our cities and States of the critical investments in infrastructure like bridges, ports, and levees; robbing our families and our children of critical investments in education and health care reform; robbing our seniors of the retirement and health security they counted on. Every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment in America’s priorities.’

“That former Senator was President Barack Obama.

“While his perspective on those words may ring different today, I believe they accurately capture the difficult choice we face today.

“The choice is this - will we rebuild America’s future or not?” 


“We can no longer, in good conscience, cut services and programs at home, raise taxes or – and this is very important – lift the debt ceiling in order to fund nation-building in Afghanistan.

“Ten years ago, when our mission in Afghanistan began, it was a just and rightful mission to seek out and destroy those responsible for the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and the deaths of thousands of innocent Americans. 

“We overthrew the Taliban government that provided safe haven to Al Qaeda. We have hunted down and killed Osama bin Laden, as well as most of the senior members of this terrorist group. Today, in Afghanistan, in a nation of 30 million people, intelligence estimates suggest that there are only between 50 and 100 Al Qaeda terrorists harbored there. 

“Because of the incredible work of our military men and women, the mission of destroying Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, by all accounts, has been a success. 

“But the real truth is, after 10 years, our current mission in Afghanistan has become less about destroying Al Qaeda and more about building a country where one has never existed.” 


“The question the President faces – we all face – is quite simple: will we choose to rebuild America or Afghanistan? In light of our nation’s fiscal peril, we cannot do both.

“I believe that if we are being honest with the American people about the depth of fiscal challenges we face at home, it is impossible to defend the mission in Afghanistan, in which we are building schools, training police, teaching people to read – in other words, building a country – even at the expense of our own. 

“Neither the President nor any Senator can divorce the difficult decisions we must now make on Afghanistan from the equally difficult decisions we must now make on cutting domestic spending in order to raise the debt ceiling.

“While the truth is the war on terrorism must be fought and it must be won, that war is not in Afghanistan. And yet, with every passing month we are choosing to spend billions we can't afford to fight a war against an enemy that is no longer there.”


“I believe it is time for President Obama to begin a substantial and responsible reduction in our military presence in Afghanistan.

“I believe it is time to for us to rebuild America, not Afghanistan.”


“M. President, I believe it is time for us to compel the elected leaders of Afghanistan and its people to take responsibility for the destiny of their nation – so that we can ensure the destiny of ours. 

“In that spirit, I have sent President Obama a letter calling on him to pursue significant reductions and end the scope of our current mission in Afghanistan well before 2014. 

“I believe any future mission in Afghanistan should – as my Senate colleagues suggested in their letter – focus primarily on responding to any resurgent terrorist threat, as well as providing targeted training for the Afghan military and police.”


“Our economy, our prosperity, our schools, our children, our veterans, our soldiers, our workers, our seniors, our nation’s future, must come first.

“I, for one, will not look West Virginians in the eye and tell them that in order to raise the debt ceiling, vital programs and funding for Social Security, Medicare, our schools, roads, healthcare, veterans, seniors, infrastructure – will be slashed – but we will continue to spend billions building schools, roads, infrastructure in Afghanistan.

“The time has come for us to realize the people of Afghanistan to choose their own destiny. We cannot build it for them.”