Bennet: National Purpose, Military Mission, Must Be Clear Before Any More Troops Are Sent Into Combat

Calls on Members of Congress to Heed Recent History in Iraq, Take Great Care in Making Decisions that Affect Lives of Troops and their Families

Last night, in a speech on the floor of the Senate, Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, called on the Administration, military leaders and lawmakers in Congress to ask the right questions and set clear, defined goals before making any decision on the best way forward in the war in Afghanistan. This week marked the eight-year anniversary of the war.

Below is the full text of Bennet's remarks, as delivered:

Mr. President, yesterday we reached the eight-year anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. On this occasion, we should remember how unified our entire country was over our mission there when it began. The nation came together after 9/11 to support our military as it bravely took the fight to the Taliban and terrorists in Afghanistan.

We had one ultimate goal: removing Al Qaeda's safe haven. Our military succeeded in toppling the Taliban government which had allowed Al Qaeda to use Afghanistan as a staging ground and hiding place. Once the Taliban was removed from power, an international coalition, led by United States forces, went about the long and difficult task of defeating al Qaeda for good.

Yet now, Mr. President, eight years later and with a new administration trying to determine America's best way forward, many Americans are understandably concerned and frustrated. Afghanistan is not where any of us want it to be and our ultimate goal has not yet been met. Al Qaeda is still there and in Pakistan as well. Afghanistan's government has not been able to take centralized control of the country. Elections there have not added to the legitimacy of the Karzai government, and we have been left to reassess our position and we must do this reassessment together. Policy-makers are asking the important and right question: what are the proper goals for our military effort in Afghanistan? How best can we accomplish them? Are these goals purely military goals? Can they be better solved with more troops or fewer? Or do we need a more complex new mission in our future which the military aspect is only one small part?

Mr. President, unless we're sure, unless all of us are sure that more troops can help us meet our goals, we should not send them. Our soldiers already -- and I talked about this earlier tonight -- have sacrificed much. This time in particular is a difficult one for service members and their families, and it's also proving to be a difficult one for those of us making policy.

As we decide what our direction will be in Afghanistan, the fallen brave soldiers we lost from Fort Carson this week are solemn reminders of how consequential our decisions have been and will be. Those of us who oppose going to war in Iraq, including President Obama, believed then it was the wrong war at the wrong time. We believe that Washington's focus on Iraq was diverting precious resources from our efforts in Afghanistan. And we are still dealing with the consequences of the decision to focus on Iraq, both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

Recalling recent history is so important because now we have to find new wisdom on Afghanistan.

At the same time, all 100 members of this body know that we must take great care as we make decisions that will affect the lives of our men and women in uniform and their families. For every soldier who answers our nation's call to serve in combat, a new deployment is like a new decision to go to war.

That's why our national purpose and their mission must be absolutely clear, and that's also why and as members of this body we must be willing to ask hard questions. The country will be counting on the senate to scrutinize and understand the purpose of any decision to deploy additional troops. As we together discuss and debate a new approach to Afghanistan, I will be motivated by the memory of the Fort Carson soldiers who died this past week as well as all of those who have fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know all of us feel the same way. They served honorably. So must we.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.