The urgent case for the withdrawal of U.S. military troops and contractors from Afghanistan is simple and straightforward: a military solution in Afghanistan is neither feasible, affordable, or in the national security interest of the United States.
The war in Afghanistan has now become the longest war in America’s history, and the situation continues to go from bad to worse. Corruption continues unabated, including amongst the very private contractors to which scarce U.S. resources are flowing. The U.S. troop presence has increased from somewhere around 5,000 troops in 2002 to roughly 100,000 in 2011. At the same time, military and civilian casualties have increased at record rates. 2010 was the deadliest year in Afghanistan to date.
Perhaps most at odds with our national security interests, an imposing U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan has fueled the domestic insurgency and contributed to recruitment by transnational extremist elements which seek to characterize the United States as a foreign invader and occupier.
The American people are increasingly calling for a change in course in Afghanistan and an end to the continued loss of life and resources at the expense of vital domestic priorities such as quality education, affordable healthcare, and much-needed investments to create jobs and jump start the economy. Recent polling indicates that 72% of the American people, and a majority of both Republicans and Democrats, support congressional action to “speed up the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.”
Regardless of the situation in Afghanistan we have seen the Pentagon come back to us asking for more time, more troops, and more resources. Our troops have performed with incredible courage and commitment but they have been put in an impossible situation. The bottom line is we need to begin to end this war.
Military and foreign policy experts agree that there is no military solution in Afghanistan. Despite this reality, we have yet to see a clear plan for the diplomatic solution that is necessary to ensure long-term stability in Afghanistan and the surrounding region. After ten years of escalating troop levels and relying upon a costly, military-first strategy that has not worked, it is time to prioritize diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan which emphasize economic development, political reconciliation and inclusion, the engagement of regional and global stakeholders, and the safeguarding of basic human rights.
Lastly, White House and intelligence officials have acknowledged the threat of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is diminished and relatively small when compared to the number of members of al-Qaeda and affiliated groups in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere. The modern threat of terrorism can emanate from the tribal regions of Yemen or a hotel room in Germany. It is not practicable, or in our economic and national security interest, to address this threat through a military-first, boots on the ground strategy.
That is why last month I introduced H.R. 780, otherwise known as The Responsible End the War in Afghanistan Act. This bill, which has been co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of more than 50 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, would limit funding in Afghanistan to the safe, orderly redeployment of all troops and military contractors and end funding for combat operations.
It is time to reorient U.S. foreign policy to reduce the threat of terrorism in a more effective and sustainable manner. That process begins with bringing the war in Afghanistan to a close.