America was victorious in killing Osama Bin Laden but the war against terrorism wages on. Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Vice-Chair of the House Republican Conference, traveled to Afghanistan just days after Bin Laden was killed and came away strengthened by a novel idea: empowering women in Afghanistan is an important step to winning the war on terror.
“Empowering women is a key to our national security efforts to ensure that Afghanistan is not a haven for terrorists,” said McMorris Rodgers in an interview Friday afternoon. “Terrorists gain strength by oppressing people — by oppressing women – and as we give more opportunities to women, it will undermine the terrorists’ control.”
McMorris Rodgers, who went on the third annual women’s Codel to the country, spoke with both American and Afghani military forces about their reactions to the news of Bin Laden’s death. The response from Americans overseas was predictably one of celebration and victory while the response from Afghanis was one of vigilance: “this was a reason to tell Members of Congress why America needs to stay in Afghanistan.”
Ironically, the Bin Laden triumph came on the first day of Military Appreciation Month – offering Americans an even more tangible reason to celebrate. Still, some have been quick to call for the drawdown of troops since the event. McMorris Rodgers isn’t one of them. She was able to meet with American’s commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, who assured her that military leaders will have a plan forthcoming.
“I continue to believe it is important that we give our military leaders on the ground the time to make their recommendations,” said McMorris Rodgers, adding she was encouraged that “we have the Taliban on the defense.”
It’s true that bin Laden has been America’s number one terrorist target for 10 years but his death does not dissolve the network that exists beneath him. Dedicated jihadists plan to retaliate and the ideology that drives so many is in full force. Heritage’s Lisa Curtis writes:
Instead of using the death of bin Laden as an excuse to give up the fight, the United States should build on it to advance the U.S. Afghanistan strategy, which stands a greater chance of success in the context of a degraded al-Qaida.
Bin Laden’s death may signal a turning point in the fight against terrorism. But to use it as an excuse for rapidly withdrawing troops from Afghanistan is short-sighted and would spell disaster for the region, where a panoply of Islamist extremist groups threaten civil order in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The unrest was evident during McMorris Rodgers’ trip as well, causing the group to miss a planned trip to Kandahar due to suicide bombings and other violence. Despite the cancellation, McMorris Rodgers said that military leaders were “encouraged that it was the Afghan military pushing back and leading the action against the Taliban.”
McMorris Rodgers noted a report from General David Petraeus announcing at least four Afghan provinces are ready for transition. As the country gains strength, transitions will multiply and America should remain on the ground until the job is done.