The Keynote address delivered at the American Chamber of Commerce in São Paulo, Brazil today.
Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for the kind words.
Thank you to AmCham – especially Gabriel Rico and Eduardo Wanick – for the indispensable role you’ve played both in setting up this event and for all the good work you’ve done to expand trade between Brazil and the United States.
My skepticism about America’s ability to deny sanctuary to al-Qaeda by denying them sanctuary in Afghanistan has been well documented during hearings by the House Armed Services Committee since the United States helped the Afghans topple the tyrannical Taliban government in 2001. That is because when we are successful in Afghanistan, that will not have denied sanctuary to al Qaeda because they will simply go over into Pakistan.
If not there, they'll go to Yemen and Somalia. Even so, there are two compelling reasons why I am certain it would be dangerously wrong to precipitously withdraw American military forces from Afghanistan as Congressman Dennis Kucinich and others advocate.
The testimony General David Petraeus gave to Congress this week can be summarized as follows: we have just gotten all of the needed assets and capabilities in place, we are making significant progress, that the progress is fragile and reversible, and that we must not let up in our efforts because success there is essential to American national security.
The General also answered many questions, including whether U.S. combat as well as non-combat forces will leave Afghanistan during withdrawals scheduled to begin in July 2011; about corruption in the country, and about the measurable signs of progress. He responded to my inquiry about the wisdom of setting a specific date to begin troop withdrawals, a decision I worry is arbitrary and based on political calculations rather than national security ones.