A Christmas Wish



General David Petraeus' plan, which has been in full swing for seven months now, has dramatically increased security in Iraq and yielded successes that have allowed some of our troops to start coming home.

Attacks in Iraq have decreased by almost 55 percent, and civilian fatalities have decreased by 75 percent in Baghdad. Iraqi Security Force casualties are down by 40 percent, and in October, U.S. military deaths fell to their lowest level in almost 19 months. And more than 40 al-Qaeda terrorist leaders were killed our captured in Iraq just in the month of October.

It is undoubtedly clear that we're seeing progress in Iraq. And I believe it is important Congress continue supporting our troops so that progress may continue.

In February, the president asked for $141.7 billion in supplemental funding for our troops fighting al Qaeda across the Middle East. As conditions on the ground changed and strategy shifts were made in Iraq, he requested additional funds in July for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, and again in October, for the ongoing fight against Islamist terrorists.
Congress has had 10 months to approve this funding for our troops. However, to date, Congress has provided only 11.6 percent of this financial support. Democrats have instead chosen to hold 63 non-binding political votes, many focused on withdrawing troops instead of supporting them. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and other military leaders, have warned of the serious consequences if funding is not passed soon.

According to the Defense Department, given current spending trends, it can be expected this funding will run out towards the end of January or the beginning of February should Congress fail to act.

Secretary Gates stated in a recent news article regarding the current funding situation, "There is a misperception that this department can continue funding our troops in the field for an indefinite period of time through accounting maneuvers, that we can shuffle money around the department. This is a serious misconception."

Defense Deputy Secretary Gordon England further highlighted the consequences in a recent letter to Congress. He stated that as a result of the delay in funding, roughly 100,000 Army civilian employees will be subject to furlough, also known as a temporary layoff.
Secretary England went on to say, "The furlough will negatively affect our ability to execute base operations and training activities. More importantly, it will affect the critical support our civilian employees provide to our war fighters -- support which is key to our current operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq...[w]hile these actions will be detrimental to the nation, there are no other viable alternatives without additional Congressional funding."

The Senate recently considered a massive spending bill to keep the entire government operating. The bill however, does not include emergency funding for our troops on the ground (at the time of this writing). Because Congress has only a few days left until the end of the legislative schedule, Senate Republicans will try and amend the spending bill to include the needed funding for our troops.

Republicans celebrate our troops' continued progress and honor their sacrifices. We remain optimistic that violence will continue to decrease if we support our troops. And with continued success, even more Americans will be able to come home sooner. That's a great Christmas wish.

U.S. Senator Jon Kyl

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