Afghanistan Fact Sheet

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is now in its tenth year. Begun as a U.S.-led NATO invasion following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the occupation has cost tens of thousands of lives and billions of dollars. Today, much of Afghanistan remains an unstable hotbed of extremism and violence. Attacks are on the rise and civilian deaths are increasing. The presence of foreign forces is uniting extremist groups that have diverse ideologies, and feeding recruits to the Taliban and al Qaeda movements rather than quelling them.

President Obama has continued and expanded the military occupation of Afghanistan without defining U.S. objectives any more clearly than did President Bush. Although President Obama announced that he would begin to withdraw U.S. combat forces in July 2011, we at FCNL see clear evidence that the administration intends to continue the military occupation of Afghanistan until at least 2014—or beyond.

To untangle the engagement in Afghanistan, the United States should:

  • Halt offensive operations against the Afghan insurgency and begin a responsible withdrawal of U.S. troops;
  • Pursue a political settlement that includes all parties to the conflict, Afghanistan’s neighbors—Including Iran and Pakistan—and Afghan civil society;
  • Meet all moral and legal obligations to support post-war rebuilding in Afghanistan, focusing support on key government ministries and civil society capacity-building;
  • Improve coordination of U.S. and international aid, utilizing multilateral channels and civilian organizations and de-link development and humanitarian aid from the U.S. military;
  • Encourage sustainable and fair international economic investment to help develop a viable Afghan economy.

A Growing Tide of Opposition

Four recent votes give us a picture of just how much opposition to the war in Afghanistan has grown in the last several years. In 2009, Rep. Jim McGovern (MA) offered a bill requiring the Secretary of Defense to present an exit strategy for U.S. forces in Afghanistan; the bill failed to pass by a vote of 138-278. Rep. McGovern introduced a similar bill in July 2010; the vote was 162-260—24 more affirmative votes. The most recent vote—which occurred in May of 2011—narrowly failed by a margin of 204-215, contributing significantly to the growing opposition of the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

In 2010, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH) offered a bill to direct the president, pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution, to remove the United States Armed Forces from Afghanistan. The bill failed by a vote of 65-356. Rep. Kucinich reintroduced this same bill in March 2011 with Rep. Walter Jones (NC) as a lead cosponsor. On March 17, 2011, the Kucinich bill received a vote of 93-321—a gain of 28 supporters.

With each vote, the number of members of Congress from both major political parties calling for a new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan has increased. From 2009 to 2011, an increasing number of Republicans in the House of Representatives have called for an expedited end to the war in Afghanistan, putting this policy shift on the record.

Congress will have several opportunities to insist on a change in the U.S. war policy in Afghanistan. Rather than bolstering U.S. security, the conflict in Afghanistan is undermining it. Extending the U.S. military presence through December 2014 will not help. But Congress will not act unless they hear from you, repeatedly.

Incremental Steps
In addition to opposing war and war funding, FCNL will be working in the months ahead to build congressional support for a U.S. policy to de-escalate and end the war in Afghanistan. We will be working to:

Require a Status of Forces and Withdrawal Agreement: In Iraq, negotiating this agreement became the mechanism that forced both Iraq and the United States to recognize the necessity of a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces. Negotiating an agreement with Afghanistan would likely engage nationalist sentiment and lead to the same conclusion.

In February 2011, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (CA) introduced H.R. 651, the United States-Afghanistan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) Act of 2011. The legislation requires President Obama to negotiate a SOFA with Afghanistan no later than 90 days after passage of the bill. It also requires the withdrawal of all U.S. military personal and Department of Defense employees no later than one year after an agreement is reached, and explicitly prohibits the presence of permanent U.S. military bases. The bill is bipartisan and has 68 co-sponsors.

Condition War Funding for a Withdraw Only: Another avenue for de-escalating and then ending the war is to make funds conditional on a troop withdraw from Afghanistan.

Rep. Barbara Lee (CA) has introduced H.R. 780, Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act. The act only authorizes funds for operations of the U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan if those funds are used to provide for the safe and orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan of all members of the military and Department of Defense contractors. Rep. Lee may offer this bill as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2012 military appropriations bill. Although FCNL opposes all military spending, FCNL we will be working to build support for a troop cap as part of our strategy to end the war. The bill has 62 co-sponsors.

Call on Congress to Authorize and Fund an Afghanistan-Pakistan Study Group: As we approach President Obama’s transitional phase date—July 2011—a comprehensive, bipartisan analysis of the US effort in Afghanistan and wider region will aid the president in making the most informed decision of how to proceed. In addition to a policy analysis, the APSG Report would provide the president with clear policy recommendations to best assist with decisions made in July and beyond. Rep. Frank Wolf (VA) has led a bipartisan call for the Obama administration to convene a study group. On June 14, 2011 the House Appropriations Committee unanimously adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Wolf to appropriate the APSG.  An APSG could bring valuable information to the current conversation which would lead to a de-escalation of the war.

FCNL's Outlook
On March 17, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH) brought H.Con.Res. 28 to a vote before the full House. Although this resolution, which would have required an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, did not pass, it succeeded in showing that there is growing, bipartisan interest in developing a new strategy to end the war responsibly and swiftly.

Persistent work with Congress in the months can change the course of U.S. policy, reverse the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, and ultimately begin the withdrawal of U.S. military troops. A first step is to urge members of Congress to make sure the president sticks with his July 2011 date to begin the meaningful and significant withdrawal of U.S. troops. But our vigilance and advocacy cannot stop there. The last major review of U.S. policy in Afghanistan resulted in a dramatic escalation of U.S. involvement and fighting. To change the policy in Afghanistan, as well as wider region, we must be strategic and well informed. It is no longer enough to occupy the streets; we must now also politely and persistently pressure our elected officials.

Updated: March 18, 2012

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