This is a critical year in Afghanistan, one that will test America's resolve in helping that nation establish lasting security and a viable state.
Last week, I visited Afghanistan and Pakistan. I also had the privilege of meeting Floridians serving there.
This trip deepened my belief that Afghanistan's security is critical to our own security. America must continue to combat 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.
No mercy for 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 Sept. 11, 2001. 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 of securing their country and developing a viable state.
As I reviewed Afghan National Army training exercises, it was clear that significant progress had been made.
But such gains will be short-lived if we don't support their efforts to overcome 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, much less specialized vehicles for troop transport or mineclearing.