Schrader, DeFazio Call on Obama to Deescalate in Afghanistan

Capitol_BigPicReps. Kurt Schrader (OR-5) and Peter DeFazio (OR-4) have joined a bipartisan handful of House members in signing the following letter to President Obama:

Dear Mr. President,Kurt Schrader

As you consider the latest assessment of U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan by General Stanley McChrystal, we urge you to reject any recommendation to increase the number of combat troops there, particularly in the absence of a well-defined military exit strategy.

We have enormous confidence in the ability of the U.S. military, but we question the effectiveness of committing our troops to a prolonged counterinsurgency war that could last ten years or more, involve hundreds of thousands of troops, and impose huge financial costs on taxpayers already saddled with trillions of dollars of government debt.

Peter DeFazioAccording to General Charles Krulak (retired), the 31st Commandant of the Marine Corps, the current strategy of protecting the people of Afghanistan with U.S. forces would require an escalation of several hundred thousand additional troops. He warns that our military has already been overburdened: “Not only are our troops being run ragged but, equally important and totally off most people’s radar screens, our equipment is being run ragged.” It is unlikely that our NATO allies will be able to sustain the political support necessary for continuing such a mission placing even more of a burden on American forces and the American people.

2009 is already the deadliest year for U.S. forces since the war began eight years ago. Fifty-one of the seven hundred and thirty-eight U.S. soldiers who have lost their lives in Afghanistan were killed last month alone.

The national Afghanistan election that U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry hoped would lead to a “renewal of trust of the Afghan people for their government” was a disaster and will almost certainly have the opposite effect. The official Electoral Complaints Commission in Afghanistan has announced that is has found “clear and convincing evidence of fraud.” A government already mired in allegations of widespread fraud and incompetence is now facing serious charges and compelling evidence that it has attempted to steal the national election.

A February 2009 ABC/BBC/ARD poll found that only 18 percent of Afghans support increasing the number of U.S. troops in their country. This should come as no surprise. Historically, Afghans have always forcefully resisted the presence of foreign military forces, be they British, Soviet or American. The presence of our forces strengthens the hand of Taliban recruiters. Indeed, an independent analysis early this year by the Carnegie Institute concluded that the presence of foreign troops is probably the single most important factor in the resurgence of the Taliban.

We support your administration’s declared goals of defeating Al Qaeda and reducing the global terrorist threat. But, we believe that adding even more U.S. troops to the military escalation that your administration ordered in March would be counterproductive. We urge you to consider and pursue the full range of alternative options including applying the lessons of the Cold War where we isolate and contain those who pose a threat to our national security.

Mr. President, the last thing that our nation needs as it struggles with the pain of a severe economic crisis and a mountain of debt is another military quagmire. We believe that this is why recent polls consistently show that a majority of Americans are opposed to a military escalation in Afghanistan. We urge you to reject any recommendation for a further escalation of U.S. military forces there. Φ

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