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National Review: "The Way Forward In Afghanistan"

2011 is a critical year in Afghanistan that will test America’s resolve in helping that nation establish lasting security and a viable state. Recently, I visited Afghanistan and Pakistan, where I saw firsthand how our military and diplomatic efforts are contributing to long-term stability for this region. I also had the honor and privilege of meeting fellow Floridians serving in the Armed Forces overseas. At places like Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan, they — and their families at home — are proudly sacrificing so that all of us may continue to live in freedom.

This trip deepened my belief that Afghanistan’s security is critical to our own security. America must continue to play a significant role that focuses on combating terrorists while supporting the development of Afghan security forces, promoting the rule of law, encouraging regional economic development, and supporting Pakistan’s critical effort in combating radical Islamic terrorists.

Never again can we allow Islamic radicals to establish safe havens to recruit, train for and plot attacks against America, as they did on September 11. When terrorists are constantly running for their lives, it is harder for them to attack us. Targeting, capturing, and killing these terrorists must continue to be driven by America’s military power, our intelligence-gathering resources and cooperation with our allies.

Of course, America cannot shoulder this burden alone. While our support is vital, Afghanistan’s long-term security requires that Afghans take ownership for securing their country and developing a viable state. As I reviewed Afghan National Army training exercises last week, it was clear significant progress has been made. But such gains will be short-lived if we don’t support their efforts to overcome the underlying challenges of poor education, illiteracy, drug addiction, corruption, fear of the Taliban’s return, and lack of basic technical expertise. For example, some of the Afghan men serving in their armed forces have never driven a vehicle before, much less specialized vehicles for troop transport or mine-clearing.

Providing adequate security will allow Afghan leaders to better focus their energies on developing the institutions that will strengthen governance and the rule of law. If the Afghan people are to trust in their public servants, they must be assured that no crime, particularly corruption, will be tolerated. And if their people are to establish businesses and attract long-term economic development investments that help wean them off the opium trade, Afghanistan must become a country where basic property and commercial laws are respected and enforced.

Read the full op-ed here.