House to Further US War in Afghanistan?

A bill that would prevent current planned drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is set to hit the House floor next week, continuing a policy that has not succeeded in delivering peace and stability to that country.

The fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which passed out of the House Armed Service Committee (HASC) late last night includes “Sense of Congress” provisions (link) that will maintain a minimum of 68,000 U.S. troops from this summer through the end of 2014. It also calls on the U.S. to maintain a “credible troop presence” after 2014, the current scheduled withdrawal date for the majority of U.S. forces.

The provision (sec. 1216) was put into the bill by HASC Chairman Buck McKeon (CA). It also requires the administration to submit a reduction notification to Congress prior to making any public announcements, as well as “an assessment of relevant security risk metric associated with the marginal reduction in force levels.” An effort to strike the problematic section led by Ranking Member Adam Smith (WA) failed 27-34. The bill passed the committee 56-5.

Congress seems to have given up its authority to declare war, but is now intent on making sure the war in Afghanistan never ends.

A continued military effort sanctioned by Congress is completely at odds with the American public. In a recent Fox News poll, 78% of those polled said they “approve of the U.S. withdrawing from Afghanistan.” What’s more, this is no longer a politically divisive position—63% of Republicans in the poll approved of plans to withdraw troops. This political maneuver to extend the U.S. war should be met with opposition by all sides.

The U.S. military mission has not succeeded in building a stable Afghanistan. It is a $2 billion/week adventure that is unlikely to yield positive outcomes for either the U.S. or Afghanistan. There are no military solutions to Afghanistan’s political problems, which have only been exacerbated by decades of foreign wars in the country. Pursuit of a military solution is simply counterproductive. Under this strategy it will not matter if the U.S. leaves this week or in ten years: the investment in lives and treasure will have been for naught.

When the NDAA goes to the House floor next week, expect to see some substantial discussion about what the U.S. is doing in Afghanistan. There will be an effort to strip this out-of-touch and counterproductive section from the final bill. Congress should hear loud and clear from the American public that dragging out the war in Afghanistan at the cost of life, limb and treasure is irresponsible and misguided.