After nearly a decade at war in Afghanistan and more than 1,600 New York troops deployed there currently, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today called for a clear plan for withdrawal of America's combat forces from Afghanistan by 2014. Over the last decade, America spent a total of $336 billion to fund the war and $11 billion for assistance in Afghanistan, with about $124 billion more set to be approved by Congress for FY2011.
Senator Gillibrand is calling for passage of the Safe and Responsible Redeployment of United States Combat Forces from Afghanistan Act, legislation to begin withdrawing American combat forces from Afghanistan on July 1 of this year. Senator Gillibrand is also making a formal request for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates to negotiate a Strategic Redeployment Agreement, based on the model used to withdraw American forces from Iraq, to establish a 2014 withdrawal end date for U.S. combat troops.
"America cannot afford an endless war in Afghanistan," Senator Gillibrand said. "After nearly a decade at war, with still no equal commitment from the Karzai government, and after all the lives we've sacrificed and the billions we've spent on this war, it's time to start bringing our troops home. It's time to put the future and security of Afghanistan in the hands of its own leaders, and focus America's national security on the emerging and more imminent threats from al Qaeda in other regions."
Nearly 100,000 American troops are deployed in Afghanistan today, including more than 1,600 from New York State.
* New York City is home to 259 total military personnel currently deployed in Afghanistan.
* Western New York is home to 95 total military personnel currently deployed in Afghanistan.
* The Rochester/Finger Lakes Region is home to 88 total military personnel currently deployed in Afghanistan.
* Central New York is home to 98 total military personnel currently deployed in Afghanistan.
* The Southern Tier is home to 45 total military personnel are currently deployed in Afghanistan.
* The Capital Region is home to 55 total military personnel currently deployed in Afghanistan.
* The North Country is home to 528 total military personnel currently deployed in Afghanistan.
* The Hudson Valley is home to 105 total military personnel currently deployed in Afghanistan.
* Long Island is home to 96 total personnel military currently deployed in Afghanistan.
Factors Behind Redeployment Strategy
* Transparency International ranks Afghanistan the second most corrupt nation in the world. Its largest bank, Kabul Bank, which processes international aid, funds government salaries and security forces, is on the verge of collapse as a result of widespread corruption.
* Neighboring Pakistan harbors al Qaeda and Taliban insurgency while Pakistan's intelligence agency maintains ties to the Taliban.
* Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has called for Afghanistan's forces to take lead for their country's security.
* Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula has now surpassed Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization in Afghanistan as the most likely to successfully execute an attack inside the United States, according to Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael Leiter.
The Gillibrand Afghanistan Withdrawal Plan
Begin Combat Forces Withdrawal in July 2011
Senator Gillibrand believes it is time to signal a clear end to America's combat mission in Afghanistan. Senator Gillibrand is an original co-sponsor of the Safe and Responsible Redeployment of United States Combat Forces from Afghanistan Act, legislation authored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and co-sponsored by 4 senators. The legislation would:
* State that it is U.S. policy to begin the phased redeployment of U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan by July 1, 2011;
* Require the president to submit a plan to Congress by July 31, 2011 for the phased redeployment of U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan, including a completion date for such redeployment.
The legislation builds on President Obama's strategy to begin the responsible reduction of U.S. forces in July 2011; complete the transfer of responsibility of security to Afghan forces by 2014; and implement a sustained, long-term commitment beyond the withdrawal date.
Establish Strategic Redeployment Agreement
To lay the foundation for an end date to America's combat forces in Afghanistan and support Afghanistan security forces' lead for their country's security, Senator Gillibrand has written to Secretaries Clinton and Gates requesting the negotiation of a Strategic Redeployment Agreement, based on the model used to withdraw American forces from Iraq.
The agreement could also set conditions beyond 2014 for a continued, modest, non-combat mission in Afghanistan, such as an ongoing counter-terrorism mission, along with training of Afghan forces and civilian security projects. The agreement would retain current freedom of mission and protections for U.S. personnel in Afghanistan.
A 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement between the U.S. and Iraq established the broader relationship between the two countries and a 2008 Withdrawal of U.S. Forces Agreement set December 31, 2011 as the complete withdrawal date for U.S. troops.
Senator Gillibrand's full letter to Secretaries Gates and Clinton:
Dear Secretaries Clinton and Gates,
It is my strong view that it is time to negotiate a Strategic Redeployment Agreement with Afghanistan that would mandate a date certain for the withdrawal of all United States combat forces no later than 2014. I am writing out of consideration for our changing national security challenges, my deep concern about the toll that the war in Afghanistan is taking on our troops and our country, and recognition of that the Afghan and Pakistani governments are not taking steps critical to the war effort. I believe a clear combat redeployment agreement would help our efforts in Afghanistan by reinforcing Afghan sovereignty and protecting both the readiness and the flexibility we need to meet the full array of global security challenges that confront our country.
I have great confidence in the ability of our troops and the strategic focus of our commanders. The surge in Afghanistan has accomplished some substantial military gains. However, as the President has said, in laying out the strategy for Afghanistan, there are "three core elements of our strategy: a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that reinforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan." Despite our civilian assistance, corruption in Afghanistan remains rife. As the near-collapse of Kabul Bank has demonstrated, corruption undermines Afghanistan's stability and the support of its people for their government. Without a strong, stable, and effective Afghan government, we risk serious domestic instability that opens the door to a return to control by the Taliban and related organizations of major parts of the country despite a U.S. military commitment. As for Pakistan, while I applaud the sacrifices Pakistan's military has made in fighting some insurgent groups, al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, and others continue to enjoy safe havens inside Pakistan, near the Pakistani-Afghan border, allowing them to resupply and direct the war in Afghanistan. Insufficient dedication from Kabul and Islamabad undermines our military investment in Afghanistan.
I am also concerned that the drain on our resources in Afghanistan may deteriorate our flexibility to address other global threats. In the past few months, upheavals in the Middle East have posed new challenges for our government as a whole, including the military. Yet, our flexibility of response appears to be compromised in part by our ongoing military involvement in two other Muslim majority countries. Top U.S. intelligence officials have said that Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula is a greater national security challenge than bin Laden. And al Qaeda's reach appears to be increasingly global -- spreading ideology and seeking recruits via the Internet and other methods - not limited to specific contests like the one in Afghanistan. U.S. strategy for countering terrorism needs to be far more nimble, innovative, and global than the troop-heavy counter-insurgency.
What I am suggesting is not to spell out every stage of U.S. troop redeployment from Afghanistan -- specific redeployment decisions should be up to commanders on the ground and avoid giving the enemy a potential propaganda tool. Nor should we change the protection for our troops and flexibility for our mission that has been agreed in the U.S.-Afghanistan diplomatic notes exchange and the ISAF-Afghanistan Military Technical Agreement. I do not believe that a withdrawal agreement must necessarily limit our training or counter-terrorism missions, or protection for our civilian development programs. It is critical, however, that we provide for a date certain for withdrawal of our combat forces, in order to give certainty to the American people; to ensure maximum flexibility in responding to other contingencies; and to publicly endorse the Afghan Government's assumption of lead responsibility as planned.