Congress (almost) votes to end the war

This week the House of Representatives came very close to voting for an end to the Afghanistan War. The McGovern-Jones amendment to the Defense Authorization Act calling for “an accelerated transition” out of Afghanistan fell just 11 votes short of passage. The final vote was 204-215. Twenty-six Republicans joined all but eight Democrats in voting for the bill.

The McGovern-Jones amendment has become the litmus test for gauging Congressional opposition to the war. Last year the amendment received 162 votes. This year’s tally of 204 represents a 42 vote increase, in a House of Representatives now dominated by Republicans. This sends a strong political message to the White House that the war must end. Congress is finally catching up to the wishes of the American people, who according to the polls overwhelmingly want the war in Afghanistan to be over.

The pressure will now increase for the President to announce a substantial draw down when he makes his promised decision to begin military withdrawals in July.

To read why and how the war must be ended in a responsible manner, see my just published book Ending Obama’s War.

Afghan Women Speak on Capitol Hill

Last week, I testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Congress as one of five witnesses in a hearing on women in Afghanistan. The session was chaired by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), with 4 other members of Congress participating: Susan Davis (D-CA), James McDermott (D-WA), Joseph Pitts (R-PA), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). It took place in the grand Caucus Room of the Cannon House Office Building.

The participation of five members of Congress and the presence of a substantial public audience were significant. The copies of our Afghan Women Speak report were snapped up quickly, with requests for more. I gave Congresswoman Schakowsky my last copy.

At the witness table I was paired with Marzia Basel, founder and former head of the Afghan Women¹s Judges Association. Our statements revealed contrasting views. She pleaded for maintaining the international military presence to protect women and guard against the Taliban taking over. She spoke favorably of permanent U.S. military bases.  My focus was on the need for military disengagement. I urged a negotiated political and security agreement within Afghanistan, the introduction of a Muslim-led interim security force under UN authority, support for constitutional guarantees of gender equality, the participation of women in the peace process, and increased funding for political, social and economic opportunity. Continue reading “Afghan Women Speak on Capitol Hill”

Bin Laden’s gone; now let’s end the war

The killing of Osama bin Laden brings partial closure to the long war against Al Qaeda. It is a credit to the police, intelligence and military Special Forces professionals who carried out the job, and to President Obama for maintaining persistent focus on eliminating the threat from Al Qaeda.

This is an occasion for many Americans to celebrate but it is also a time for reflection about the war in Afghanistan, and the necessity of bringing it to a close.

Last year CIA Director Leon Panetta acknowledged what many analysts already know, that Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has dwindled to insignificance. In June 2010 Panetta told ABC News that the total number of al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan is “relatively small. At most, we’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less.”

In the wake of Panetta’s revelation some asked why it is necessary to maintain 100,000 U.S. troops, with tens of thousands of additional soldiers from other countries, to wage war against fewer than 100 fighters. In fact this is not a war against Al Qaeda but against the Taliban. Continuing the war is not necessary or helpful to the essential task of preventing global terrorist attacks. Continue reading “Bin Laden’s gone; now let’s end the war”