Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Renewed Focus on Afghanistan on Capitol Hill

With Gen. David Petraeus’ return to Washington, the congressional spotlight shifted from the budget to Afghanistan last week.

General Petraeus testified before the House Armed Services Committee March 16 on progress in Afghanistan.

Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) asked the General, “What is your view on the advisability of the House of Representatives passing a resolution…that would call for the removal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan no later than December 31, 2011?  Specifically, how do you believe our troops would view such a measure and how do you believe the Taliban and al Qaeda would view such a measure?”1

Gen. Petraeus responded, “The Taliban and Al Qaeda obviously would trumpet this as a victory, as a success. Needless to say it would completely undermine everything our troopers have fought so much for and sacrificed so much for.” He continued, “So…this would close the door on the very, very hard-fought effort and end a mission that I think is seeking to achieve a very, very important security objective of our country as well as of our allies…And what it would do in the region, of course, would be of really incalculable consequence as well.” 

The House voted on H.Con.Res.28 (House Concurrent Resolution), which was introduced by Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) to direct the President to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, the following day. The resolution failed by a vote of 321 to 93, with a slight increase from 2010 in those favoring withdrawal. Congressman Kucinich cited public backing and affordability as reasons for once again introducing the resolution.

One Democrat that voted against, Rep. Howard Berman (Calif.), said the resolution is based on language in the War Powers Resolution which allows Congress to call for the return of troops when they are fighting without congressional authorization, which doesn’t apply to the authorized fighting in Afghanistan. He also stated the administration needs time to allow its withdrawal strategy to work, at least through spring.2

The Afghanistan debate is just in its beginning stages and will likely heat up more once the budgets are dealt with.

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