As one of 23 Senators who voted against invading Iraq in the first place, I have voted in favor of every proposed timetable to bring this war to a close. At the same time, if my son or daughter were in the situation of our men and women in uniform, I would want them to have everything necessary to stay as safe as possible and have supported the troops over the course of their deployment, consistently voting for funding requests for our nation's military needs.
Our involvement is now in its seventh year. Our troops have done everything we have asked of them and many of them have been deployed multiple times. We owe it to them and their families to bring them home as soon as possible.
I am pleased that President Obama has stated that responsibly ending the war in Iraq is a top priority for his administration. Our troops have already withdrawn from Iraqi cities and President Obama has announced plans to begin withdrawing our troops from Iraq altogether. Iraq's political leaders and the Iraqi people must take responsibility for the future of their nation, engage in an effective reconciliation process, and establish and maintain peace with the help of a trained and fully functioning Iraqi security force.
The crisis in Darfur has been one of the most pressing issues facing the international community, with hundreds of thousands of people killed and millions displaced. I have been deeply troubled by this tragedy and long advocated a stronger U.S. and United Nations response.
Last year 20 of my colleagues joined me in a letter to then-President Bush urging him to use the full power of the Presidency to end the genocide in Darfur and push for a negotiated political settlement. I also cosponsored or authored a number of bills that have been enacted into law that put pressure on the Government of Sudan to end or be held accountable for the violence, including the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, the Genocide Accountability Act, and the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act. Additionally, I regularly supported funding for the international peace mission in Sudan.
It is my hope that all relevant groups will participate in continued peace negotiations and that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between North and South Sudan will be respected and enforced.
The United States has been in a state of heightened alert since the attacks of September 11, 2001. From the outset, I supported our efforts to combat Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Yet as we enter our ninth year of military engagement there, I have grown concerned about the strain multiple deployments place on our military servicemembers and families as well as the commitment of the Afghanistan government to provide accountable and functional services, including security.
The unfortunate truth is that the war in Iraq monopolized military resources needed to effectively fight terrorism in Afghanistan. Instead, our early efforts should have focused on Afghanistan and helping Pakistan.
Today I believe the U.S. should focus on rapidly and effectively building Afghan security forces so that they can take responsibility for securing their own nation.
I have long been committed to bipartisan initiatives to help the least fortunate around the world. Since my first trip to Africa in January 2000, I have spearheaded the fight in the Senate to increase our national effort to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in the world's poorest countries, resulting in billions of dollars in additional funding in recent years. These efforts are saving millions of lives around the world and also help protect our own nation's public health.
I have supported funding for microenterprise programs, many of which particularly help women in poor nations, and I have introduced initiatives to provide women the resources and opportunities to thrive. To ensure access to clean water, I have supported continued funding for the Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act. As a founder of the Congressional Global AIDS Emergency Task Force, I authored legislation—now enacted—that helps developing nations strengthen the capabilities of their own health systems. I am dedicated to the improvement of global health and the reduction of poverty, and will work to increase action and awareness in these areas in the years to come.
This Congress I was joined by Senator Corker in introducing the Simon Water for the World Act, which would help the U.S. bring clean water and sanitation to 100 million of the world's poor. I also joined Senators Dodd and Corker in introducing the Global Child Survival Act, which would increase U.S. leadership in helping reduce infant and maternal mortality around the world.
The possibility that nations such as Iran and North Korea intend to develop, acquire, or use nuclear weapons presents the United States with a very real national security concern. Europe and the broader international community share that concern, and convincing Iran and North Korea's leaders to abide by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has proved problematic.
I have been a leader in trying to halt the nuclear weapons program in Iran. Last Congress I joined then-Senator Smith in sponsoring the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007. This Congress I have cosponsored the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act and the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act.
My support for Israel is strong, as is my commitment to peace in the Middle East. Israel remains an important U.S. ally in the Middle East and the only stable multi-party democracy in the region. The strong and steady friendship between our two countries is built on a solid foundation of shared values, mutual support, and trust, and is in the fundamental interest of both nations.
My actions in support of Israel and peace in the region include cosponsoring several pieces of legislation aimed and halting Iran's nuclear program and a resolution reaffirming Israel's right of self-defense and its right to take appropriate action to deter aggression by terrorist groups and their state sponsors. At the same time, I have remained sympathetic to the need to address the concerns of the Palestinian people. I have also cosponsored a resolution in support of the Israel-Palestinian peace process.