Congress will soon vote on an additional $83 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama’s plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan includes an important emphasis on diplomacy and aid, but it also intensifies a failed military strategy. Despite the rhetoric about a “civilian surge,” the supplemental funding request includes ten times as much money for military as it does for civilian tools.
I have made the case here many times that the current Afghanistan strategy is heading in the wrong direction. Just this week we saw some of the tragic results of this mistake with an air strike in Afghanistan that killed as many as 100 innocent civilians. With 21,000 soldiers set to deploy to Afghanistan, we are sure to see more American, Afghan and Pakistani casualties. With the inevitable loss of life and a projected long term cost of more than $500 billion, we need to have a plan to seriously evaluate whether this strategy is working, and if it’s not (and I would argue that will be the conclusion of such evaluation), have a plan to get out.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) is working to move this debate in Congress. Next week, he plans to introduce a bill requiring Defense Secretary Gates to present Congress with an exit strategy for Afghanistan by the end of the year. We need to get as many cosponsors on this bill as possible before it is released to show that Congress strongly supports accountability for the war in Afghanistan. We know the military strategy is not going to achieve the US’s stated goals, and we need to have a plan to change course.