A group of Democratic senators is putting legislative pressure on President Obama to end the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Barbara Boxer, Sherrod Brown, and Dick Durbin are co-sponsoring the Safe and Responsible Redeployment of United States Combat Forces from Afghanistan Act of 2011, according to an email Gillibrand sent Monday to supporters of Democracy For America (DFA), a prominent progressive advocacy group.
“An endless war in Afghanistan is not in America’s best interest,” Gillibrand says in her email.
“This October will mark the 10-year anniversary of the start of Operation Enduring Freedom. I believe 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,” the New York Democrat says. “After nearly a decade at war, with still no equal commitment from the Karzai government, and after all the lives sacrificed and the billions we’ve spent on this war, 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.”
The head of DFA, former Vermont governor and the ex-chairman of the Democratic National Commiittee, Howard Dean, reportedly has switched his position and now backs a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
U.S. forces first invaded Afghanistan in the immediate wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, in order to oust the Taliban regime which had provided support for Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda organization which plotted and carried out the attacks.
Although others on the left have explicitly used the death of bin Laden as a rationale to end the war, Gillibrand’s DFA email makes no mention of last week’s commando raid in Pakistan that led to the death of the terrorist mastermind.
Rather, she focuses on the Obama administration’s standing commitment to draw down forces.
“President Obama has already committed to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan this July and that is a vitally important step forward. However, this alone is not enough,” Gillibrand says. “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. We are not suggesting our government spell out every stage of U.S. troop redeployment — specific decisions should be up to commanders on the ground and avoid giving the enemy a potential propaganda tool,” she adds. “Nor should we change the protection for our troops and flexibility for our mission that has been agreed upon in previous agreements.
“However, it is critical 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. This is why we must pass the Safe and Responsible Redeployment of United States Combat Forces from Afghanistan Act now.”
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.