The House ramps up the pressure on Afghanistan
Members of the House of Representatives are kicking off the 2011 session by ramping up the pressure on the White House to end the war in Afghanistan. In addition to the vote last week to cut all but $10 billion of the funding for the Afghanistan war, members have been speaking out and introducing new legislation to push for an end to the war.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) has reintroduced her Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act. The bill would limit military funding for the war in Afghanistan to funds for a safe and orderly withdrawal. Even though it’s just been introduced, it already has many more cosponsors than it had in the last Congress—another sign that congressional patience on the war in waning. Rep. Lee made a powerful case for the bill in the Huffington Post:
This momentum for a change in course in Afghanistan was evident last year, when 100 House Members voted in support of my amendment to limit funding in Afghanistan to the safe and orderly redeployment of U.S. armed forces.
Regardless of the situation in Afghanistan we have seen the Pentagon come back to us asking for more time, more troops, and more resources. In response, it is time for Congress to reassert its constitutional authority and compel the swift, complete withdrawal of all troops and military contractors.
It is time to break the near decade-long status quo of costly, destabilizing war in Afghanistan. It is time to bring our troops home.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) the Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus also wrote about his support for the bill, tying the massive amount of money spent on the war to struggles in his congressional district:
This war has cost the taxpayers in my congressional district more than $580 million so far. That’s enough money to hire 11,278 elementary school teachers for a year, or to send 84,653 students to college for a year. These are just some of the bad tradeoffs we’re making by spending our national resources on war instead of on fixing problems here at home. Ask yourself: which would you rather have? A war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost, or a more educated, more prosperous America?
Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) linked his support to the fact that a year after the push into Marjah, we’re not seeing signs of success:
When President Obama announced the troop increase, he assured the American people that the new forces would let commanders “target the insurgency and secure key population centers.”
Regarding the Marjah District specifically and Afghanistan generally, this assurance has proved to be false. Helmand Province, in which Marjah is located, saw insurgent attacks more than double this year, while across Afghanistan insurgent attacks were up 64 percent compared to last year.
According to Pentagon and other reports, the insurgency got smarter and larger over the course of 2010. Clearly, the troop increases failed to “reverse insurgent momentum,” Pentagon rhetoric notwithstanding.
The economic costs of this failed strategy are huge. Taxpayers in my district alone have paid $1.6 billion for the war so far, enough to send almost 300,000 students to college for a year.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) has also introduced a new bill to exercise oversight on the war. The US-Afghanistan Status of Forces Agreement Act directs the president to negotiate a SOFA with Afghanistan—a step that was critical in winding down the war in Iraq. Citing public support for congressional action on Afghanistan, Woolsey explained what her bill would accomplish in The Hill:
My bipartisan bill, The U.S.-Afghanistan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) Act, would require the president to negotiate and enter into a bilateral status of forces agreement with the Government of Afghanistan no later than 90 days after its enactment.
The SOFA would:
- Establish that the temporary presence of United States Armed Forces in Afghanistan is at the request and invitation of the sovereign Government of Afghanistan.
- Prohibit permanent bases.
- Provide a date, no later than 1 year after the agreement is entered into with the Government of Afghanistan, for the complete, safe, and orderly redeployment from Afghanistan of all members of the United States Armed Forces, Department of Defense civilian employees, and contractors working for the Department of Defense.
A SOFA with Afghanistan would end the persistent waffling on dates for American troop withdrawals and give the American people what they want—a speedier, more certain end to this disastrous conflict.
With the July 2011 start date for withdrawal fast approaching, and little information about how significant this withdrawal will be or when it will end, this sustained pressure from Congress will be critical. See if your representative is cosponsoring this and other bills that promote peace here.