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Watch Senator Murray’s speech here (Senator Murray begins at 2:09:35).

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor to discuss her views on the need for a sizable and sustained troop drawdown in Afghanistan, and to outline her concerns over the unseen human costs of war. During the speech, Murray, who chairs the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, highlighted specific costs of the conflict to our men and women in uniform and called on her colleagues in Congress and the President to consider these costs when making decisions about the global fight against terrorism.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s speech:

“Last week, I joined with a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues on a letter to the President urging him to begin a sizable and sustained reduction in troop levels—and I hope he takes the opportunity to do that tonight.

“But Mr. President, with all of the talk about troop levels—I want to make sure that we remember that this isn’t just about numbers —it’s about real people, with real families.

“Mr. President—far too many of our servicemembers have sacrificed life and limb overseas—and we must honor them and their sacrifices by making sure we take care of them and their caregivers not just today, and not just when they come home, but for a lifetime.

The full text of Senator Murray’s speech appears below:

“Mr. President, tonight we are going to hear from President Obama about his plans for changes to troop levels in Afghanistan

“Last week, I joined with a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues on a letter to the President urging him to begin a sizable and sustained reduction in troop levels—and I hope he takes the opportunity to do that tonight.

“But Mr. President, with all of the talk about troop levels—I want to make sure that we remember that this isn’t just about numbers —it’s about real people, with real families. 

“Men and women who are fighting to defend our country, and are depending on us to do the right thing for them now and when they come home.

“As Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I have an inside look into something that too often doesn’t make the front pages: the unseen costs of war

“The costs that come after our men and women take that uniform off.

“We all hear about how expensive war is while we are fighting it—but for so many of our servicemembers, what happens on the battlefield is just the beginning.

“We are seeing suicide rates that are much higher among active duty servicemembers and veterans than among civilians.

“We are finding they are having trouble accessing the mental health care so many of them desperately need.

“We are watching as these men and women are sent out on tour after tour.

“Too often, they are having a tough time finding jobs when they come home.

“And we owe it to them and their families to do everything we can to get them the support and services they need.

“Mr. President—far too many of our servicemembers have sacrificed life and limb overseas—and we must honor them and their sacrifices by making sure we take care of them and their caregivers not just today, and not just when they come home, but for a lifetime.

“That is going to be expensive—I am going to fight to make sure it happens—and I think it ought to be considered as we think about the war in Afghanistan.

“Mr. President, the enemy we face is real.

“The Taliban and al Qaeda have demonstrated through their actions and their words that they mean us great harm.

“I was sitting in the Capitol on September 11th 2001 when I saw the smoke rising from the Pentagon. 

“It’s a moment and a day I will never forget.

“As Americans, we know what this enemy is capable of, and we need to do everything we can to make sure something like that never, ever, happens again.

“That’s why I believe American forces need to be prepared to fight terror and terrorists wherever they may be.

“After September 11th, Afghanistan was providing safe haven for them, and we were absolutely right to go in and take them out.

“But we know terrorism isn’t a country – it’s a network and a threat that exists around the world.

“We’ve seen that our terrorist enemies are not tied to a specific location—and they are not bound by lines on a map.

“They are in Afghanistan—but they are also in Yemen, in Iraq, in Pakistan—and beyond.

“In fact, our top target in the war against terrorism, Osama bin Laden, was just killed in a brave operation in a safe house in Pakistan.

“So Mr. President—I think it is absolutely critical we have a military that is prepared to take on our threats wherever they may be.

“So as we consider the wars we are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, we need to make sure we aren’t overextending the servicemembers we are counting on—

“That we continue to have the financial resources available to defend ourselves against the very real threat of terrorism that continues to exist—

“That the cost and resources of boots on the ground for years on end doesn’t inhibit our ability to go after terrorists wherever they are—

“And that our military and intelligence operations are nimble and have the resources they need to keep our nation safe from all threats. 

“Mr. President, we have been fighting in Afghanistan for ten years. I voted for this war, and it was the right thing to do.

“Our brave men and women in uniform have done everything we’ve asked of them – including finding Osama Bin Laden.  

“But we need to make sure our strategies are adapted to meet the threats of today.

“Leaving large levels of troops in Afghanistan is not the best use of our resources – especially in tough economic times. It’s time to redeploy, rebuild our military and focus on the broader war on terror. 

“I am hopeful President Obama will make an announcement tonight that reflects our current realities.

“And I am going to keep working with his administration, the Pentagon, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and others—as we fight to keep America safe and take care of the servicemembers coming home.

“Thank you Mr. President. I yield the floor.”