Last December, President Obama told the American people that we would begin to withdraw our forces next July. The American people deserve to know if that plan is still in place, and how we’re going to get there.
So last month, U.S. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and I offered an amendment in the House of Representatives that would have required the Obama Administration to submit a plan – an exit strategy – to explain how they intend to meet the president’s commitment.
162 members of the House – including nine Republicans – voted for my amendment. That vote reflects a deepening worry in Congress about the direction of our policy.
Everyone talks about the need for a political solution in Afghanistan. But at the end of the day, that political solution is up to the Afghan people. They have to decide the future of their country. They have to decide if they can live together in peace.
Much has been made about Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s comments in Rolling Stone magazine about Vice President Joe Biden and other members of the Obama administration.
But this is much bigger than a few ill-considered comments. We have lost over a thousand of our brave soldiers. Thousands more have been wounded.
Elsewhere in the article, a senior adviser to Gen. McChrystal said, “If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular.” As I travel throughout the 3rd Congressional District, it’s becoming clear that he was right. More and more people are telling me that they are worried that we are becoming bogged down in Afghanistan.
The recently published WikiLeaks documents paint a disturbing picture: corruption and incompetence in the Afghan government; questions about the role of the Pakistani intelligence services; confusing rules of engagement for our soldiers. The “same old, same old” is simply not working.
I voted in 2001 to go to war in Afghanistan – to hunt down al-Qaida and eliminate their threat. I would cast that same vote today – in a heartbeat. Al-Qaida remains a threat, and we must redouble our efforts to destroy them wherever they are – in Pakistan, in Yemen, in Somalia, and elsewhere around the world.
But what we are doing in Afghanistan today is far beyond that original authorization. We are engaged in extensive, expensive “nation-building” in a very complicated, dangerous part of the world.
And frankly, given the level of unemployment and the severe economic situation we face in the United States, I’d rather do a little more “nation-building” here at home.
We have borrowed $350 billion – added to the debt – for the war in Afghanistan.
Some in Washington have refused to support extending unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans because, they say, we can’t afford it. We’re told we can’t afford to help small businesses and entrepreneurs with tax incentives. We’re told we can’t afford to improve our roads and bridges or help more families afford a college education. We’re told we can’t afford to prevent foreclosures or to improve child nutrition.
But Congress just voted to borrow another $33 billion for nation-building in Afghanistan.
We don’t have the money to help American working families, but when it comes to supporting a corrupt and incompetent Karzai government, we’re supposed to be a bottomless pit? That makes no sense.
If we are to get serious about getting our deficit and debt under control, the money we are spending in Afghanistan must be part of the discussion.
This is life and death. This is about sending our troops into harm’s way. This is about whether or not we can afford to continue this policy.
We must continue to ask tough questions and demand straight answers. Our soldiers deserve nothing less.
U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern represents the 3rd Congressional District of Massachusetts in the House of Representatives.
Read more at JimMcGovern.com