The Huffington Post, May 13, 2011
Afghanistan: No More Excuses
Although the president has committed to begin withdrawing troops in July, the military is working behind the scenes to make this withdrawal as small as possible
By Jim Wallis
After 10 long years, the national conversation on the war in Afghanistan has changed significantly. And now, the hunt for Osama bin Laden, used for years to justify the war, is over. The official reasons for continuing the war are disappearing each day. The threat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan has significantly weakened. Many people are shocked when they learn that there are only 100 al Qaeda operatives left in Afghanistan, but more than 100,000 American troops remain. As the debate on the deficit heats up, we need to say again and again that the more than $100 billion a year that is spent on the war is no longer sustainable. Every American should know these numbers: 100 terrorists; 100,000 troops; $100 billion -- it just isn't adding up anymore. There are no more excuses for delaying a withdrawal of U.S. troops.
A USA Today/Gallup Poll released this week shows that 59 percent of Americans agree that the "United States has accomplished its mission in Afghanistan and should bring its troops home." Congressional pressure is also growing. News reports indicate that those who favor "a swift reduction of U.S. forces" have been gaining momentum.
A significant part of this pressure to end the war is the introduction of the "Afghanistan Exit and Accountability Act" by Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC). H.R. 1735 was submitted with 14 additional sponsors, eight Democrats, and six Republicans. Ending the war is now a bipartisan effort. The legislation would require the president to submit a plan with a timeline and completion date for the transition of military operations to the Afghan government, and require quarterly progress reports along with projections of how much would be saved if the transition were completed in six months.
In his statement, Rep. McGovern said: "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. That's nuts. ... On Monday [May 2], the Pentagon reported that 1,550 American troops have died in Afghanistan. Last week, another one of my constituents was killed. Tens of thousands more have been wounded. ... Enough is enough."
Rep. Walter Jones' opposition to this war has made him a modern profile of courage. He turned against the war after visiting constituents who lost their children, fathers, and mothers, as well as soldiers in the hospital whose lives have been forever shattered. He doesn't think this war is worth their sacrifice. He is right.
Although the president has committed to begin withdrawing troops in July, the military is working behind the scenes to make this withdrawal as small as possible. In their initial proposal, the military floated a news story suggesting a withdrawal of only 5,000 troops. This is not acceptable anymore, and we must insist on a clear, quick, and responsible exit -- not one slowly drawn out over years. Too much money has been spent, and too many lives have been lost. It's time for the war to end.
So I am calling on you, our most committed constituents, to contact your members of Congress and urge them to co-sponsor this legislation. With our voices, we can make a difference, and we must. The time has come to end this war.
Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at www.godspolitics.com.
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