This week we joined with over a dozen of our colleagues—Republican and Democrat—to introduce new legislation to require the Obama administration to present an exit strategy for US forces from Afghanistan.
Specifically, our bill (the “Afghanistan Exit and Accountability Act”) would: require the president to transmit to Congress a plan with timeframe and completion date on the transition of US military and security operations in Afghanistan to the Government of Afghanistan; require the president to report quarterly (i.e., every ninety days) on the status of that transition, and the human and financial costs of remaining in Afghanistan, including increased deficit and public debt; and; included in those quarterly reports, the president must disclose to Congress the savings in five-year, ten-year and twenty-year time periods were the United States to accelerate redeployment and conclude the transition of all US military and security operations to Afghanistan within 180 days (i.e., six months).
The operation that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden demonstrated that the men and women of our armed forces and intelligence community are incredible people. The world is now a better, safer place.
The question then becomes: now what? Now that bin Laden is dead and Al Qaeda is scattered around the globe, does it really make sense to keep using over 100,000 US troops to occupy Afghanistan and prop up a corrupt government? We don’t think so.
Remember—we didn’t find bin Laden on the front lines of Afghanistan. He was comfortably holed up in a mansion in Pakistan. We must continue to target Al Qaeda wherever in the world they are. But continuing to be bogged down in Afghanistan makes that mission harder, not easier.
In December, Afghan President Hamid Kharzai made it clear that he would rather align himself with the Taliban than with the United States. So why on earth are we sacrificing so much in terms of dead and wounded soldiers and billions of dollars to support him?
We believe that bin Laden’s death creates an opportunity to re-examine our policy and to require the administration to tell us exactly how and when we will end our massive troop presence in Afghanistan.
Our bill requires the president to give Congress a concrete strategy and timeframe for bringing our servicemen and women home to their families and communities, and it requires quarterly reports on the human and financial costs of continuing the war—and how much we would save if we withdrew our forces within a reasonable time frame.
That’s not too much to ask.
To make it worse, we’re not even paying for the war. It’s on the national credit card. The war in Afghanistan adds $100 billion a year—$2 billion each week, $8 billion each month—to our debt.
We’re told that we can’t afford vital domestic funding, but we should continue to borrow billions and billions of dollars for nation-building in Afghanistan. Instead, we should be doing some more nation-building right here at home. Why don’t we take some of those billions to build roads and bridges and schools right here in the United States?
In the end, of course, only President Obama can bring an end to the war. But Congress must play a role, as well. For too long, Congress has ducked its proper oversight responsibilities when it comes to the war in Afghanistan. We’ve avoided meaningful debate and discussion and have chosen to simply “go along to get along.”
The President told us that we will see a substantial drawdown of troops in July. He needs to keep that promise. And he needs to tell us when all of our troops will be coming home, and how much staying in Afghanistan will continue to cost the American people—in sacrificed lives, wounded bodies and minds, and US tax dollars—until this war is finally over.
That’s what our bill would require. We are hopeful that with enough public pressure, we can provide some wind at the back of the president to help him do the right thing.
This war is the longest in our history. There’s no end in sight. It’s time to stop digging.