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House Narrowly Misses Key Opportunity to Force Planning for Afghanistan Withdrawal


Location: Washington, DC

Rep. Miller statement on National Defense Authorization Act

In a surprisingly close vote, a record number of House Members today called for a clear path out of the war in Afghanistan.

A vote on an amendment by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) that would have required the U.S. to begin detailed planning now for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and prepare for the transition to Afghan civilian and military control was narrowly defeated but received the strongest showing yet for an amendment to change course in Afghanistan and sent an important signal to the White House and congressional leaders, said Rep. George Miller (D-CA) who supported the effort.

President Obama has said that U.S. forces will begin to leave Afghanistan in July of this year, with the goal of U.S. and NATO forces turning all operations over to Afghan forces by the end of 2014. However, experts have raised strong concerns that, to date, there are no specific plans for the withdrawal and the transition to Afghan control.

"It is essential that the U.S. starts planning now for the orderly, safe and expeditious withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan," said Miller. "The U.S. planned carefully for its withdrawal from Iraq but has no similarly detailed plans to meet the deadlines for withdrawing from Afghanistan and turning control of the country over to the Afghans.

"U.S. forces were sent to Afghanistan ten years ago in response to 9/11 to stop al Qaeda and get Osama Bin Laden," Miller added. "Today, Bin Laden is dead and American forces are no longer fighting al Qaeda, but are instead bogged down in an unending war with the Taliban. After a decade of war, thousands of American casualties, countless innocent civilian victims, and hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars lost, it is time to leave Afghanistan.

"On behalf of a majority of Americans who favor an end to the war, and on behalf of all of America's service men and women, we need to carefully prepare our exit now. I'm disappointed the Republican leadership in the House, who claim to want to end government waste, opposed our effort to bring this wasteful war to an orderly end."

The McGovern amendment, which lost by a vote of 204-215, was offered to a larger annual defense-related bill, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012. The House approved that bill by a vote of 322-96. Miller voted against it because it failed to change U.S. policy in Afghanistan and because of other serious concerns.

"This defense bill would create a broad new authority for the President to declare war against new enemies at his discretion," Miller said, "turns back the clock on civil rights by imposing new roadblocks to prevent the end of the discriminatory Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, and allows big defense contractors like Halliburton to keep their political influence spending hidden from public view. In short, this bill is a grab bag of right-wing social engineering ideas instead of what it should and could have been -- a bill to support our troops and national security, our civil liberties and our economy, and an orderly end to the war in Afghanistan."

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