Progressives again urge Afghanistan withdrawal

Acting on the promise they made earlier this week, the House’s progressive leaders – including three from the Bay Area – urged President Barack Obama today renewing their call for a significant reduction in U.S. troops in Afghanistan following the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., along with CPC Peace & Security Task Force co-chairs Mike Honda, D-San Jose, Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, noted how bin Laden’s recent death not only provided comfort to families of “the victims of his unconscionable attacks on innocent life” but also provided an opportunity to end U.S. involvement in America’s longest war. The letter also cites the growing bipartisan consensus to ensure that the scheduled July reduction in troops “meet the expectations of Congress (and) the American people.”

Scores of House members urged the President in March to make the July reduction in U.S. troops levels in Afghanistan significant and sizable.

The latest New York Times/CBS poll shows nearly half of those surveyed said the nation should decrease troop levels in Afghanistan, but more than six in 10 also said the United States had not completed its mission in Afghanistan, suggesting that the public would oppose a rapid withdrawal of all American forces. The nationwide telephone poll was conducted May 2 and 3 with 532 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points for all adults.

Read the full text of the letter, after the jump…

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

Dear Mr. President,

In the wake of Osama Bin Laden’s death, now is the time to shift toward the swift, safe, and responsible withdrawal of U.S. troops and military contractors from Afghanistan. We, the undersigned Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), strongly urge you to announce plans for a near-term and significant drawdown of U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan beginning no later than July of this year.

On March 16, 2011, 81 Members of Congress sent you a letter asserting that the forthcoming reduction in U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan must be significant and sizeable, and executed in an orderly fashion. This bipartisan message stressed the urgency of creating economic opportunities here at home and said that the redeployment of only a minimal number of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July would not meet the expectations of Congress or the American people.

Mr. President, we are hopeful that Osama Bin Laden’s death will offer comfort to the families of the victims of unconscionable attacks on innocent life that have occurred throughout the world and on 9/11. You acted decisively in your efforts to capture the mastermind behind those tragic events and we commend your calls for national and global solidarity as we acknowledge the world is safer for his absence.

It is our hope that you can similarly unify the nation by bringing our troops home and ending America’s longest war in history— a position supported by an overwhelming majority of the American people.

The death of Osama Bin Laden certainly does not represent an end to Al-Qaeda. As we seek a future free of the threat of global terrorism, we must work to implement smart security policies that are both effective and sustainable. Ending the war in Afghanistan is a critical step toward refocusing U.S. resources and security assets to serve that vital purpose.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.