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Submitted by Robert Naiman on 15 September 2009 - 3:50pm
Sixteen Members of Congress - fifteen Representatives and a Senator - have written to Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates, urging caution in expanding the U.S. military presence in Colombia. The letter is here.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 1 September 2009 - 3:41pm
In an op-ed today in the Washington Post, conservative columnist George Will dissociates himself clearly from Republicans who support escalating the war in Afghanistan.
U.S. forces "should be substantially reduced," Will writes. "America should do only what can be done from offshore." Will's piece carries this clear-cut headline: "Time to Get Out of Afghanistan."
Might George Will's op-ed encourage more Republicans in Congress to speak up in favor of withdrawing U.S. troops?
Whether we get our troops out of Afghanistan anytime in the next five years will depend to a significant degree on what Republican Members of Congress are willing to say and do.
This summer, the House of Representatives took what was in effect a "no confidence" vote on Afghanistan policy: it voted down, 138-278, Representative Jim McGovern's amendment requiring the Pentagon to present Congress with an exit strategy.
The majority of House Democrats supported McGovern's amendment. Among Democrats, the vote was 131-114, or 57% to 43%. But Republicans were overwhelmingly opposed. Only seven Republicans voted yes; 164 Republicans voted no; in percentage terms, 4% yes and 96% no.
There's been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth - as there should be - about Democrats not representing their constituents on the war. But the story on the Republican side is worse, and changing U.S. policy will require turning that around as well.
The Washington Post reported on August 20 that "A majority of Americans now see the war in Afghanistan as not worth fighting, and just a quarter say more U.S. troops should be sent to the country. " Seven in 10 Democrats said the war was not worth fighting, while seven in 10 Republicans said that it was.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 23 June 2009 - 10:59am
Last week, the House leadership prevailed on many progressive Democrats to vote for the war supplemental, paying for military escalation in Afghanistan with no exit strategy, giving $108 billion to the International Monetary Fund without requiring modest reforms such as requiring the IMF to publish minutes of its board meetings (as the Federal Reserve does.)
The leadership obtained this consent, in part, by making the vote a loyalty test. Does the loyalty run the other way?
Today the Rules Committee is scheduled to consider amendments to the FY2010 Defense Authorization. The Rules Committee, which largely defers to the House leadership, will determine if progressive amendments will see the light of day.
Amendment #2, offered by Reps. McGovern, Jones, and Pingree,
Would require the Defense Secretary to report to Congress, not later than December 31, 2009, on a U.S. exit strategy for U.S. military forces in Afghanistan participating in Operation Enduring Freedom.
As a freestanding bill, McGovern's amendment has 90 sponsors. President Obama himself said in March that the U.S. must have an exit strategy. McGovern's amendment simply says that the Pentagon has to tell Congress what the exit strategy is. Will the leadership allow McGovern's amendment to come to a vote?
McGovern's amendment is key to getting the honest debate over U.S. policy in Afghanistan that we have been so far denied.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 22 June 2009 - 3:56pm
In March, President Obama told CBS' "60 Minutes" that the United States must have an "exit strategy" in Afghanistan.
Ninety Members of Congress agree. They're supporting H.R. 2404, a bill introduced by Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) whose text is one sentence long: "Not later than December 31, 2009, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to Congress a report outlining the United States exit strategy for United States military forces in Afghanistan participating in Operation Enduring Freedom."
The Members of Congress are going a bit further than President Obama. They're saying not only that the U.S. should have an exit strategy, but that Congress and the American people should be told what it is.
It's Congress - and the American people - who have the power of the purse. This week, over the protests of progressive Democrats, Congress approved another war supplemental - paying for military escalation with no exit strategy - bringing the total spending for the war in Afghanistan to $223 billion since 2001, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Americans aren't just paying for the war through their tax dollars. More than 700 American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001. Some 56,000 U.S. soldiers are in Afghanistan now, and President Obama has ordered 21,000 more soldiers to be sent there. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the new U.S.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 19 June 2009 - 4:14pm
It's interesting to observe when some Democratic Congressional leaders say Democrats have to be "loyal" to President Obama and when it's apparently OK to join Republicans in undermining him.
Earlier this week, Speaker Pelosi said progressive House Democrats said had to be "loyal" to President Obama in supporting more money to escalate war in Afghanistan, despite the lack of any strategy for how we are going to get out. And they had to be "loyal" to President Obama in supporting $108 billion for the International Monetary Fund, widely expected to be used largely to bail out European banks, even though modest Congressional demands for reforms at the IMF (the Fed publishes minutes of its meetings, why not the IMF?) had been rebuffed.
But when President Obama said, quite sensibly, that the U.S. should avoid the appearance of meddling in Iran's election dispute, Howard Berman and Nancy Pelosi decided to join with Republicans in undermining Obama's policy.
CQ Politics reports:
When House Republicans pushed a resolution supporting Iranian protestors Tuesday, critics said they were seeking political points against a circumspect President Obama. But when House Democrats signed onto the resolution (H Res 560) Thursday night, getting a green light for a Friday morning vote under suspension of the rules from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, critics said it seemed they were taking political cover. Backed by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard L.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 4 June 2009 - 12:16pm
Last month, 60 Members of the House of Representatives, including 51 Democrats, voted against the war supplemental for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. But this week, when the House is expected to consider the agreement of a House-Senate conference on the war funding, the supplemental could well be defeated on the floor of the House - if most of the 51 anti-war Democrats stick to their no vote - which they might, if they hear from their constituents.
The key thing that's changed is the Treasury Department's insistence that the war supplemental include a $100 billion bailout for the International Monetary Fund - a bailout for European banks facing big losses in Eastern Europe, the international version of the Wall Street bailout.
House Republicans, including Minority Leader John Boehner, have threatened to vote no on the war funding if the IMF money is attached. If Boehner could bring all the Republicans with him, and if all the Democrats who voted no last month voted no again, the war supplemental would fail on the floor of the House, 200-228.
But not every Democrat who voted no before will vote no now, and therein lies the drama. The House leadership didn't need those anti-war Democrats before, so in a way it was a "free vote" - 51 Democrats could vote on behalf of their anti-war constituents without running afoul of the leadership. But if Treasury insists on the IMF money, and Republicans vote no, the leadership will need 18 of those Democrats now.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 27 February 2009 - 5:05am
A key fact about the recent history of Iraq is absolutely critical to the nascent debate about Afghanistan: there was more to the Iraq "surge" than sending additional troops, so if folks are going to justify sending more troops to Afghanistan on the grounds that sending more troops "worked" in Iraq, we should be talking about the other elements of US policy in Iraq that changed after November 2006, not just about more troops.
Analysts say elements of the real policy changes that took place in Iraq -- changing the troops' mission from offense to defense, increasing support for indigenous forces, and stepping up diplomacy within the nation and among its neighbors -- could be very relevant for Afghanistan, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. They say the mission of troops should shift from hunting insurgents to protecting civilians, and focus money on Afghan rather than US troops. "You can get 70 Afghan soldiers for the price of one American soldier deployed to Afghanistan," noted one analyst. Empowering local leaders may require political reforms -- such as allowing governors to be elected locally instead of appointed by Kabul, which would require reform of the Afghan Constitution.
In particular, regarding "stepping up diplomacy within the nation," the US made deals in Iraq with insurgent groups that led to a dramatic reduction in violence.
So if you want to "replicate the success of the surge in Iraq" in Afghanistan, it seems pretty clear that you are going to have to come to some arrangements with some armed groups that are currently considered "Taliban." If you're not talking to Taliban, you're not replicating the Iraq surge.