A great deal of our work in recent months has been focused on pushing Congress to pressure the Obama administration to end the war in Afghanistan. We saw this pay off with the strongest vote ever in the House on an accelerated withdrawal, and a powerful letter from senators to the president calling for a sizable withdrawal.
As we gear up to keep the pressure on following President Obama’s disappointing announcement of his plan for a modest withdrawal, we see once again how critical our congressional work has been. Many members of Congress have put out statements criticizing the president’s plan as insufficient, laying the groundwork for us to work with allies to keep a drumbeat going and push for a quicker withdrawal plan.
A sample of some of the statements since the president’s announcement:
Tonight, President Obama made it clear: we are now beginning the process of bringing our troops home and ending the war in Afghanistan. It has been the hope of many in Congress and across the country that the full drawdown of U.S. forces would happen sooner than the President laid out – and we will continue to press for a better outcome.
The president’s decision represents a positive development, although in my view the conditions on the ground justify an even larger drawdown of U.S. troops this year than the president announced tonight. I will continue to advocate for an accelerated drawdown in the months ahead, and for enhanced training and partnering with Afghan forces, because only they can provide durable security for their nation.
It’s time to bring the surge troops home, and I wish the president had laid out a more aggressive plan today. After discussing this issue at length with senior military leaders, diplomats, and many experts with years of service in Afghanistan, I think we could safely withdraw 15,000 troops this year without jeopardizing the gains that our men and women in uniform have achieved.
If reports of the President’s speech are correct, we’ll have twice as many combat troops in Afghanistan at the end of his term than we did at the beginning. We should instead have a path to bring those troops home.
It is essential that Afghanistan be viewed in the broader strategic context. If we set out to reapportion our worldwide military and diplomatic assets without reference to where they are now, no rational review would commit nearly 100,000 troops and $100 billion a year to Afghanistan. An additional 31,000 troops are in the region supporting Afghanistan operations. The country does not hold that level of strategic value for us, especially at a time when our nation is confronting a debt crisis and our armed forces are being strained by repeated combat deployments.
I was disappointed in the President’s announcement this evening that only 10,000 troops will be removed from Afghanistan by the end of this year and only 33,000 troops will be removed by September of 2012. Almost three out of four Americans want to bring our troops home from Afghanistan, and this is far from the sizeable and significant reduction that the American people were expecting.
I am glad this war is ending, but it’s ending at far too slow a pace. We need a swifter turnover of responsibility to the nearly 300,000 Afghan forces we have trained, which would allow our brave military men and women to come home sooner.
I believe it is imperative that the President quicken the pace of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and get our troops out even faster than he has proposed. At the cost of more than 1,500 American lives, this war is incredibly costly. At the cost of $113 billion a year, it’s expensive, dangerous, and unproductive. It is time to refocus America’s intelligence and defense resources on more imminent threats from terrorists not just in Afghanistan but in other regions of the world such as Yemen or Pakistan. I urge the President to move immediately to end this unnecessary war.
This is only a small portion of the encouraging statements that have come out of Congress in the last several days. Seen another good one? Add it in the comments section.