Afghanistan: Time to go!

Almost three quarters of the U.S. people say we want an early end to the Afghanistan war. Now is the time to press President Obama and our legislators to set an exit plan with a speedy timetable for withdrawal.

It's already by far our country's longest war. Over 1,300 U.S. troops have been killed, and thousands wounded, in Afghanistan. Last year over 2,500 civilians were killed there, and over 3,200 wounded, in conflict-related situations. In two weeks last month, over 200 civilians were killed in military operations.

A horrendous example of the war's deadly toll on civilians occurred March 1, when nine boys ages 9 through 15 were shot to death by NATO helicopter gunners as they gathered firewood for their families in a desperately poor area high in the mountains. One teenager was the sole support of his family, including his 13 sisters.

In monetary terms, the war is costing $2 billion a week, or $100 billion a year, at a time when leaders of both parties are worrying about the deficit, and House Republicans are trying to gut social programs right and left on the pretext the debt must be reduced.

Political leaders from both parties are stepping up calls for a speedy end to the war.

On Feb. 26, the Democratic National Committee passed a resolution at its annual meeting declaring that the Democratic Party "supports prioritizing job creation and a swift withdrawal of U.S. armed forces and military contractors in Afghanistan," with a "significant and sizable" cut no later than July 2011.

The resolution was submitted by U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, D-Calif., with fellow California Democratic Rep. Mike Honda; Donna Brazile, DNC vice chair for the District of Columbia and Alice Germond, DNC secretary for West Virginia. It emphasizes that there is no military solution to the conflict, and cites a Gallup poll released Feb. 2, that found 72 percent of Americans favor a speeded-up withdrawal of troops.

The resolution also said the Democratic Party recognizes the "enormous strain" the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have placed on the troops and their families, and "remains committed" to making sure troops have the support they need while deployed and the care they and their families "need and deserve" when they come home.

The DNC's action follows several other recent initiatives by members of Congress.

  • On Jan. 25, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., introduced S. 186, calling on President Obama to submit a plan for "phased redeployment of U.S. combat forces" starting July 1, with an end date for withdrawal.
  • On Feb. 10, U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., introduced H.R. 651, to ban "permanent basing or military presence" of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, with a date for "complete, safe and orderly" withdrawal of all troops, contractors and Defense Department employees.
  • On Feb. 17, Lee introduced H.R. 780, to limit funding for U.S. armed forces there to what's needed for "safe and orderly withdrawal " of all U.S. forces and contractors."
  • The next day, Reps. James McGovern, D-Mass. and Walter Jones, R-N.C. wrote in the Washington Post, that the "human and financial costs" of the war are "unacceptable," and called for "an exit plan to extricate ourselves from Afghanistan, not a plan to 'stay there four more years and then we'll see.'"

And on Feb. 25, defense Secretary Robert Gates warned West Point cadets that the U.S. army should not "turn into a Victorian nation-building constabulary - designed to chase guerrillas, build schools or sip tea."

All this legislation deserves our full support. This is the time to call/write/e-mail your representatives in the House and Senate, urging them to sign on as cosponsors of the various bills.

And, to let the White House know that we want the war to end promptly, with complete withdrawal of all military and military-related personnel, and reconstruction led by the Afghan people with the aid of international organizations.