Action Alert

It’s time for an exit strategy in Afghanistan

In President Obama’s historic speech in Cairo last week, he laid the groundwork for significantly changing the US’s interactions with the Muslim world, shifting to a relationship based on mutual respect and cooperation. He also clearly stated, “Make no mistake: we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan.”

But when exactly will our troops come home? He said, “We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can.” This hardly sounds like a specific benchmark for ending the war. Paired with a recent statement from the Army Chief of Staff that we’ll have boots on the ground for “a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan,” it sounds like a commitment to open-ended occupation. What we need is an exit strategy.
The House and the Senate each voted to pass more than $90 billion in funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the bulk of the money going to military operations. Many members of Congress have been reluctant to take a strong stand against the occupation, with only 60 representatives and 3 senators voting against the funding. But because of your grassroots efforts, we now have 84 representatives cosponsoring Rep. McGovern’s bill requiring an exit strategy by the end of the year. Can we get to 100? 150? Click here to write your representative to support a clear exit strategy for Afghanistan.

President Obama’s praiseworthy speech included some admirable points about nonmilitary aid and his desire to see US troops come home. We need to see that rhetoric matched with clear action. Congress will soon start examining President Obama’s military budget for Fiscal Year 2010. This is an important opportunity to raise concerns about the occupation of Afghanistan and push for a better policy. The ratcheting up support for McGovern’s bill, we put pressure on the congressional leadership to allow a vote. And this could open the way for other challenges to the war in Afghanistan. Take action today to make that happen.

Because thousands of you have been consistently raising your voices, we are starting to see cracks in Congress’ support for the war in Afghanistan. With increasing Afghan, Pakistani, and US casualties, and a growing humanitarian crisis, we must remain vigilant in our work to pressure our government for a more humane, effective and pragmatic solution.

7 replies »

  1. Before being asked to support a bill such as HR 2404, I would appreciate some more information on the need for such a measure. Has the Secretary of Defense refused to answer questions about the administration’s exit strategy for Afghanistan? Has he even been asked such questions by the appropriate Congressional committees? What was his response? Does anyone think that requiring the Defense Department to produce a report will get a different response than we might get if we simply asked him questions about the Pentagon’s exit strategy?

    I am wondering why people think we are already at the point where Congress needs to take such an adversarial posture toward the administration. Would it not be more productive and more effective to work with the administration on developing an exit strategy, rather than working against the administration by issuing ultimatums and demands? We have a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President. They are supposed to be working together, not in a hostile relationship.

    • The Department of Defense has not as of yet offered any exit strategy for Afghanistan. In fact, there has been discussion about the possibility of staying for upwards of ten years coming from various military officials. A congressional mandate is far more likely to get a thorough response than a verbal or written request from an individual member.

      I wouldn’t say that asking for an exit strategy, or criticizing other aspects of the administration’s Afghanistan strategy, is inherently adversarial; it’s one of Congress’ basic functions to provide oversight of the executive branch. Our government does not function properly if Congress is simply observing the administration’s policies without asking tough questions and offering constructive criticism.

      It is certainly desirable for Congress and the president to work together, but that doesn’t mean continuing to go along with a strategy that is likely to fail. I think we are “already” criticizing this strategy because it has proven ineffective for nearly eight years. This is a serious issue where lives are at stake, and it would be irresponsible for Congress to simply go with the flow because they do not want to create tension with President Obama and his administration. We, just as Congress, should speak out if we feel strongly that the approach in Afghanistan is misguided.

  2. I’m not sure why you say the strategy in Afghanistan has been ineffective for 8 years. It seems to me that keeping the Taliban out of power for 8 years is a significant accomplishment. If the Taliban were to return to power, women in Afghanistan could forget about going to school, men could not shave their beards, and people would have to bury their radios and televisions in the backyard as they did the last time the Taliban out of power. That is not something that we should wish to see happen. Obviously, no one wants to pursue a strategy that is going to fail. But we are not failing now, and if we simply pull out and leave a power vacuum, then it seems likely that we would fail. We should be in agreement that we do not want to fail. Therefore, it seems to me that anyone criticizing the current strategy has the burden of proposing an alternative strategy that is at least equally likely to keep the Taliban out of power. I’m not saying you are wrong to support an eventual withdrawal of forces. I am saying that you would have more credibility if you were to propose a strategy that would have a better chance of solving the enormous problems in this region.