Senate Votes to Hasten Afghan Withdrawal
By Matt Southworth on 12/01/2011 @ 11:00 AM
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate adopted a Sense of Congress amendment, offered by Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Mike Lee of Utah, to expedite the already planned U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan. The adoption by voice vote on this amendment marks a new high water mark in mounting congressional opposition to the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
Amendment No. 1257, to the National Defense Authorization Act, was offered at a time when many in Congress are questioning the merit of continuing the war in Afghanistan. The vote took place on the eve of the two year anniversary of President Obama’s West Point escalation speech and only one week before the conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany.
As the Obama and Karzai administrations attempt to negotiate a “strategic partnership” amid growing congressional opposition and as signs of strategic failure abound in Afghanistan, this historic vote sends a very strong, clear message to the president. It is time for the U.S. military to leave Afghanistan and for the U.S. to adopt a new strategy.
As I previously reported, this vote also represents the first time the Senate has voted on and passed a measure to end the U.S. war in Afghanistan. This success would not have been possible without your lobbying, which generated over 1,000 calls over the Thanksgiving holiday!
Yet we know our work is far from done. While this vote is a step in the right direction, it alone will not end the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Leading up to the NATO meeting on Afghanistan in Chicago this coming May, it will be critical to grow the tide of opposition to the failed war strategy. Congress will not only need to express dissent, but also be able to articulate a clear and feasible alternative policy.
Building the case for a bipartisan, congressionally mandated body to examine U.S. policy in Afghanistan such as the Afghanistan-Pakistan study group is a good place to start. FCNL has been calling for the study group since January 2010. I became more convinced than ever that such a study group is needed after my recent trip to Afghanistan. The APSG received $1 million in funding in the House Defense (military and war) Appropriations bill, but was not funded in the Senate version. We can work together over the next month to ensure the Senate includes funding for the APSG in its military appropriations bill, which may be taken up this month. Such an effort will undoubtedly lead to a different, and we hope better, U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Now is the time to act. Without your lobbying, it will not be possible.