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Afghanistan: the pace of withdrawals accelerates; House letter supporting that action
On February 1, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that the United States will end its combat missions in Afghanistan by “mid- to the latter part of 2013.”
This announcement – whether intended by the Obama Administration at this time is not clear – marks a welcome and accelerated withdrawal timetable. Previously, combat operations were supposed to end in 2014.
The New York Times called the pronouncement “a major milestone toward ending a decade of war in Afghanistan.”
The sooner American military forces exit from Afghanistan – after spending so many lives and treasure – the better.
This step was pressed for in amendments offered last year in the Senate by Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and in the House by Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC).
Many questions still remain. While Sec. Panetta has indicated a shift towards an "training, advice and assist" role, there has been too little clarity on what this means, including whether there will be what Panetta calls “an enduring presence” in Afghanistan that could continue for years and what will be the actual timetable for the withdrawal.
In support of the Administration’s decision, a bipartisan group of six House members is circulated for signatures a letter to go to President Obama.
The 20 signers thus far as of 2/8 are (and this list will be updated daily):
Justin Amash (MI)
Bruce Braley (IA)
Lois Capps (CA)
Judy Chu (CA)
John Conyers, Jr. (MI)
Jimmy Duncan, Jr. (TN)
Sam Farr (CA)
John Garamendi (CA)
Raul Grijalva (AZ)
Janice Hahn (CA)
Martin Heinrich (NM)
Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL)
Walter Jones (NC)
Barbara Lee (CA)
John Lewis (GA)
Ben Ray Luján (NM)
Jim McGovern (MA)
Gary Peters (MI)
Henry Waxman (CA)
Lynn Woolsey (CA)
The letter follows:
The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We write to express our support for the Administration’s announcement on February 1st that the United States will complete combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of next year.
From information reported in the media, the U.S. intends to transition from major combat operations in Afghanistan to a “training, advice and assist role” by the middle-to-latter part of 2013. We applaud this announcement by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to accelerate the transition away from combat operations, and it provides assurance that the timeframe outlined in your 2009 speech at West Point will be carried out. As you know, many of us support an even more rapid withdrawal of all our troops from Afghanistan.
The majority of Americans want a safe and orderly military withdrawal from Afghanistan as quickly as possible, as recent public opinion polls indicate. The desire by the American people for an accelerated transition in Afghanistan was reflected in votes taken in Congress last year, in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate during their respective debates on amendments offered by Representatives McGovern and Jones and by Senator Merkley to the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. These votes show there is strong bipartisan political support to take bold steps regarding U.S. policy in Afghanistan.
The past 10 years have cost America dearly in the blood and sacrifice of our military servicemen and women and their families, and in our nation’s fiscal health and security. The United States intervened in Afghanistan to destroy al Qaeda’s safe haven, remove th Taliban government that sheltered al Qaeda, and pursue those who planned the September 11th attacks on the United States; those objectives have largely been met and no longer require a large presence of combat troops in Afghanistan. While questions remain about the details of the announced transition – when and how quickly U.S. troops will be coming home, the number and purpose of troops that might remain in Afghanistan and for how long a period, the costs and the savings of accelerating the completion of combat operations – the February 1st announcement clearly signals that now is the moment to initiate the transition, end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home.
Members of Congress