Ten years after the start of the war in Afghanistan, more than one hundred thousand American troops remain in that nation, providing military and security assistance to the Afghanistan government. A bipartisan group of senators today offered an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill to urge the president to accelerate the timetable for transitioning to Afghanistan control over their own security. The effort is being led by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
"We went to Afghanistan to destroy al Qaeda training camps and bring to justice those responsible for the September 11th attacks. With the death of Osama Bin Laden, we have now accomplished those goals. It is time to end our presence in Afghanistan and refocus our attention on fighting terrorists wherever they may be," said Merkley. "At a time of high unemployment, a wave of foreclosures and growing debt, we need to concentrate on nation-building here at home."
"It is time to have a clear missive from the President on how he plans to end our presence in Afghanistan. We cannot continue endless nation-building efforts overseas while here at home we face expounding national debt, crumbling infrastructure, and out-of-control spending in Washington," Sen. Paul said.
"For more than a decade we have invested precious lives and resources in Afghanistan to eradicate terrorism and bring to justice those responsible for Sept. 11," said Sen. Tom Udall. "Thanks to the brave work and dedication of our military, intelligence and diplomatic personnel, al-Qaeda no longer has a significant presence in their country and Osama bin Laden is dead. Setting an accelerated timeline to drawdown our troops gives the Afghans strong incentive to take over their security, and it allows us to concentrate on terrorist organizations with global reach."
Earlier this year, President Barack Obama began the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan with the goal of removing all combat troops by the end of 2014. However, that would mean that tens of thousands of troops will remain in country for three more years with many support and training personnel remaining beyond that.
Given that America has largely accomplished the goals set out at the onset of the war and that the chief mission has morphed into a wide-ranging "nation-building" effort that is costing our country nearly $10 billion a month, the senators believe that we need to rethink this use of our military resources and speed the handover to the Afghanistan government.
The resolution calls for the President to expedite transition of responsibility for military and security operations to the government of Afghanistan and provide a plan to Congress within 90 days of passage of the resolution of a timeframe and completion date for that accelerated transition.
Full text of the resolution is below.
Purpose: To express the sense of Congress regarding the expedited transition of responsibility for military and security operations in Afghanistan to the Government of Afghanistan.
SENSE OF CONGRESS ON TRANSITION OF MILITARY AND SECURITY OPERATIONS IN AFGHANISTAN.
FINDINGS.--Congress makes the following findings:
(1) After al Qaeda attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, the United States Government rightly sought to bring to justice those who attacked us, to eliminate al Qaeda's safe havens and training camps in Afghanistan, and to remove the terrorist-allied Taliban government.
(2) Members of the Armed Forces, intelligence personnel, and diplomatic corps have skillfully achieved these objectives, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden.
(3) Operation Enduring Freedom is now the longest military operation in United States history.
(4) United States national security experts, including Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, have noted that al Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan has been greatly diminished.
(5) Over the past ten years, the mission of the United States has evolved to include a prolonged nation-building effort in Afghanistan, including the creation of a strong central government, a national police force and army, and effective civic institutions.
(6) Such nation-building efforts in Afghanistan are undermined by corruption, high illiteracy, and a historic aversion to a strong central government in that country.
(7) Members of the Armed Forces have served in Afghanistan valiantly and with honor, and many have sacrificed their lives and health in service to their country.
(8) The United States is now spending nearly $10,000,000,000 per month in Afghanistan at a time when, in the United States, there is high unemployment, a flood of foreclosures, a record deficit,and a debt that is over $15,000,000,000,000 and growing.
(9) The continued concentration of United States and NATO military forces in one region, when terrorist forces are located in many parts of the world, is not an efficient use of resources.
(10) The battle against terrorism is best served by using United States troops and resources in a counterterrorism strategy against terrorist forces wherever they may locate and train.
(11) The United States Government will continue to support the development of Afghanistan with a strong diplomatic and counterterrorism presence in the region.
(12) President Barack Obama is to be commended for announcing in July 2011 that the United States would commence the redeployment of members of the United States Armed Forces from Afghanistan in 2011 and transition security control to the Government of Afghanistan.
(13) President Obama has established a goal of removing all United States combat troops from Afghanistan by December 2014.
(b) SENSE OF CONGRESS.--It is the sense of Congress that--
(1) the President should expedite the transition of the responsibility for military and security operations in Afghanistan to the Government of Afghanistan;
(2) the President should devise a plan based on inputs from military commanders, the diplomatic missions in the region, and appropriate members of the Cabinet, along with the consultation of Congress, for expediting the drawdown of United States combat troops in Afghanistan and accelerating the transfer of security authority to Afghan authorities prior to December 2014; and
(3) not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President should submit to Congress a plan with a timetable and completion date for the accelerated transition of all military and security operations in Afghanistan to the Government of Afghanistan.