Despite what most of the mainstream media would have you believe, a recent CBS News/New York Times poll revealed that more Americans want troop levels in Afghanistan to remain the same or decrease rather than to grow. It’s time for Congress do its job representing the people by taking a hard look at this war before committing more treasure and lives to it — and before President Obama’s ambitious progressive agenda at home is sacrificed to another quagmire.
With President Obama already announcing his intention to send 17,000 more troops — even before his review of Afghanistan is complete — this is a moment when we need public hearings in order to change course and focus on diplomacy, an international rather than NATO-led effort, and rebuilding Afghanistan. At a time when we face historic economic challenges at home and the need to repair our tarnished image abroad, there are some encouraging signs that — this time around — members of Congress won’t simply follow the drumbeat for war.
One of those signs is the new Congressional Progressive Caucus Afghanistan-Pakistan Task Force initiated by caucus Co-Chair Raúl M. Grijalva. Beginning this month, the task force will host a series of six forums that address the many issues involved in Afghanistan policy, including: Afghan history; US strategic interests; regional and international influences; role of the military; and a comprehensive plan. Although topics will be explored from a progressive perspective “each panel or forum is about education, about laying out a range of options; not promoting a predetermined agenda.” The task force will use these forums — which will be open to the public — to craft a policy recommendation for the entire caucus (the largest caucus in Congress). Stay tuned for a detailed schedule by the end of next week.
Also, CPC member Rep. John Tierney has already taken the initiative to raise tough questions as Chair of the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs. Tierney held a hearing on “Afghanistan and Pakistan: Understanding a Complex Threat Environment” which included testimony from Paul Pillar, former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia. (You might recall Pillar for shedding light on cherry-picked intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq War.) Tierney and Pillar both asked whether it’s in our national security interest to send more troops to Afghanistan to prevent a safe haven for Al Qaeda when it already has one in Pakistan and could easily establish them in Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Algiers, etc.?