Earlier this month, for a forthcoming article in Rolling Stone about President Obama’s Afghanistan policy, I interviewed Representative Jim McGovern (D.-Mass.), who’s called on the White House to declare its “exit strategy.” A majority of the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives backed McGovern’s call, and polls show that something like two-thirds or three-quarters of Democrats around the country believe that the war in Afghanistan isn’t worth fighting.
As McGovern points out in the interview below, in Congress some Democrats are reluctant to challenge President Obama. But McGovern says: “The further we get sucked into this war, the harder it will be to get out of it.”
Q. What do you think about General McChrystal’s call for more US forces in Afghanistan?
MCGOVERN: “To me the issue is more than about sending troops. The question is, what is our policy? There’s no clear mission. I offered an amendment to the defense authorization bill a few months ago that would have required the secretary of defense to submit to Congress his exit strategy for the military in Afghanistan. And we had 138 votes. Barack Obama said on 60 Minutes, we need an exit strategy. [Secretary of Defense] Gates has said, we need an exit strategy. What is so controversial about asking them to provide an exit strategy? I’m not looking for a date certain. But what they need to tell us is, at what point does the military contribution to the political solution end? And when do our troops come home?
“I don’t know what the policy is. Is the policy to defeat all the Taliban and create a Jeffersonian democracy in Afghanistan? Well, we just had an election, and President Karzai stuffed the ballot boxes. By all accounts, this was a mess of an election! And so, we’re gonna put our confidence in this government? The government we are now supporting is corrupt, incompetent, and engaged in election fraud.
“We want this administration not to send 40,000 troops. And we want them to define policy. Right now the fight is over, do you go with McChrystal or do you go with [Vice President] Biden? I’d rather go with Biden than McChrystal, but the Biden solution has some problems, too. The further we get sucked into this war, the harder it will be to get out of it.
“I voted for the authorization to use force right after 9/11 to go after Al Qaeda. That authorization was very specific about going after Al Qaeda. It said nothing about what we’re doing now. Al Qaeda’s in Pakistan. Osama bin Laden moved to a different neighborhood. And in some ways it’s a safer neighborhood, because the U.S. military can’t do whatever it wants in Pakistan. So, OK, what are we doing? Help define it for us.”