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Lee leads letter urging Afghanistan withdrawal

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 at 1:33 pm in Afghanistan, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jackie Speier, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren.

Rep. Barbara Lee today led a bipartisan group of 80 House members in writing to President Barack Obama, urging him to make a significant, sizeable reduction in U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan beginning no later than July.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“Our service men and women have performed with incredible courage and commitment in Afghanistan. But they have been put in an impossible situation where there is no military solution,” Lee, D-Oakland, said in a news release.

“Twice, President Obama has doubled down on a counterproductive military-first strategy in Afghanistan based upon the perpetual recommendation of the Pentagon for more troops, more time, and more resources,” she said. “This letter sends a clear signal to the President that the redeployment of a minimal number of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July will not meet the expectations of Congress or the American people, and further that we will strongly support a shift toward ending this war and bringing all of our troops home.

Among those signing today’s letter were representatives John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; George Miller, D-Martinez; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

Lee last month joined with two House Republicans to introduce HR 780, The Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act, which would limit funding in Afghanistan for the safe and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops and military contractors. That bill now has 56 co-sponsors, including all of the Bay Area members who signed today’s letter; no action has occurred since it was referred to the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees.

Read the full text of today’s letter, after the jump…

March 16, 2011

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We write to you to express our utmost support for your planned drawdown of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan beginning no later than July of this year. We, the undersigned members of Congress, believe the forthcoming reduction in U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan must be significant and sizeable, and executed in an orderly fashion.

Our nation’s economic and national security interests are not served by a policy of open-ended war in Afghanistan. At a time of severe economic distress, the war in Afghanistan is costing the United States more than $100 billion per year, excluding the long-term costs of care for returning military servicemembers. At the same time, military and intelligence officials agree that Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan is diminished and that there will not be a military solution to resolve the current situation. It is simply unsustainable for our nation to maintain a costly, military-first strategy in Afghanistan.

A significant redeployment of U.S. troops from Afghanistan beginning in July 2011 will send a clear signal that the United States does not seek a permanent presence in Afghanistan. This transition will provide incentive for internal stakeholders to improve upon the political status quo, reduce corruption, and take meaningful steps toward the establishment of an effective, trustworthy, and inclusive governance structure. A meaningful start to withdrawal will also empower U.S. diplomatic engagement with regional and global stakeholders who share a common interest in the long-term stability of Afghanistan.

The majority of the American people overwhelmingly support a rapid shift toward withdrawal in Afghanistan. In fact, a Gallup Poll released on February 2, 2011 indicated that 72% of Americans favor action this year to “speed up the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.” Let us be clear. The redeployment of a minimal number of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July will not meet the expectations of Congress or the American people.

Mr. President, as you work to finally bring an end to the war in Iraq by the end of this year, we must commit ourselves to ensuring that our nation’s military engagement in Afghanistan does not become the status quo. It is time to focus on securing a future of economic opportunity and prosperity for the American people and move swiftly to end America’s longest war in Afghanistan.

Mr. President, we look forward to working with you to make that goal a reality.

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