National Press Club

McKeon urges preservation of human rights gains in Afghanistan

February 24, 2014 | By Gavin Stern |

Chairman McKeon receives the traditional Club mug from President Myron Belkind as former President Jerry Zremski looks on.

Chairman McKeon receives the traditional Club mug from President Myron Belkind as former President Jerry Zremski looks on.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., pleaded for the human rights gains in Afghanistan at a Feb. 24 Club Luncheon.

"Don't let it slip away," he urged.

McKeon praised the "blossoming" of the Afghan National Security Forces and the will of the Afghan people to fight against the "cruel,barbaric horde" of the Taliban.

"The biggest uncertainties we face in Afghanistan are no longer military. They are diplomatic and they are moral," McKeon said.

McKeon cited the case of Bibi Aisha, whose nose and ears were cut off by the Taliban after she ran away from a forced marriage. The U.S. Army rescued her.

"Do we step back and abandon Afghanistan to the wolves?" McKeon said.

McKeon blamed President Barack Obama for the loss of public support for the war in Afghanistan and the moral quandary of leaving the country behind.

"President Obama praised his run for the exits or pitied our wounded instead of lauding the accomplishments of our troops and the importance of the mission they were given to fight," McKeon said. "The troops have held their line out there. The president has not held the line here."

McKeon is growing impatient with outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Without a bilateral security agreement, which he has so far refused to sign, U.S. troops will have to leave Afghanistan after 2014.

"The Afghan people have been amazing allies. President Karzai has not," McKeon said. "But let's not pin our hopes on one man, especially one who is packing his bags in a few months."

In his State of the Union Address, Obama said that "a small force" of Americans would stay in Afghanistan - if Afghanistan signs the security agreement.

Afghanistan Ambassador to the United States Eklil Ahmad Hakimi, who attended the luncheon, said in an interview that he agreed with McKeon that the U.S. should not abandon its efforts.

"The money that you have invested there, the blood that you have invested there, we should get the result. That requires an enduring partnership," Hakimi said.

However, the ambassador said he disagreed with McKeon's characterization of Karzai and the haste to sign a security agreement before Afghan elections.

"The American people are prudent people," McKeon said. "They know we're buried under a mountain of debt. But they are also compassionate people."