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We must forge onward with confidence

Over the past decade in the United States Senate, I have been actively involved in crafting America’s foreign and national security policies.

I am keenly aware that two of the biggest challenges facing the United States today are its image in the eyes of the world and the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

As a five-year member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I conducted oversight of U.S. foreign policy in the most critical parts of the world including Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea.

Today, as a member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, I have the responsibility to provide our men and women in uniform and the State Department with the equipment and resources required to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

More than 900 American men and women have died in the war in Afghanistan — including 25 Ohioans.

But it is vital that Americans remember our mission in Afghanistan is not in vain. There is a direct link to the past Afghan regime and the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and we must work to prohibit the resurgence of those terrorists.

Going forward, our country must address three critical issues on Afghanistan.

First, President Obama has laid out a clear, coherent, measurable and realistic plan of action to the American people and the international community. The strategic plan utilizes all instruments of American power — humanitarian, diplomatic and military — and is not open-ended. I invite you to visit the White House Web site at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/way-forward-afghanistan to learn more about the plan.

I am pleased that President Obama emphasized that we are going to be a partner of Afghanistan — not its patron. The flexible timetable he outlined puts pressure on President Karzai to take decisive steps to end corruption, restore his people’s faith in government, and build the human infrastructure needed to provide for their own national security.

Second, it is absolutely essential that our allies provide a robust contribution of troops and resources towards our shared cause in Afghanistan.

In October, I wrote a letter to the Secretary Clinton offering specific suggestions on how to cultivate international support from our NATO allies on Afghanistan.

Our allies want to be treated as valued partners and not be simply told what to do. We cannot pursue the war in Afghanistan alone — we need continued international partnership, shared responsibility and financial support from our allies, as well as regional players like Pakistan, India and China.

Secretary Clinton responded to my letter, indicating she “wholeheartedly” agreed with my assessment of the importance of robust engagement with our allies and partners on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I am very pleased that President Obama heeded my calls to not make his decision on Afghanistan unilaterally, instead coordinating with our international community — especially our NATO allies.

Finally, one of the greatest challenges terrorism has caused our nation is a significant draw-down on our financial resources. I hope to hear more from the administration on how this will be addressed as we move forward. We must work together to ensure that the freedom we fight for today allows America’s future generations to grow without insurmountable debt.

The United States of America has been a leader in maintaining peace globally for the more than half a century.

We will continue to forge onward with confidence in our mission and in the brave troops who inspire us all.

George Voinovich represents Ohio in the U.S. Senate.