DeFazio Explains His Opposition to Afghanistan War Funding

by Rep. Peter DeFazio

Given that the war in Afghanistan has entered its ninth year without clearly defined objectives or an exit strategy, I wanted to provide you an update of my continued opposition to our head-in-the-sand Afghanistan policies.  We recently saw a major shakeup in military leadership in Afghanistan, but it is clear that this will not translate to a major change in strategy.

We Need a Clear Exit Strategy

Much like President Obama’s exit strategy in Iraq, we need a clear exit strategy for Afghanistan. Neither the Soviets nor the British could resolve the intra-tribal and inter-tribal conflicts that have plagued Afghanistan for the past 600 years.  I seriously doubt that our continuation of the failed neoconservative strategies of the Bush Administration will do any better.

I vigorously opposed President Obama’s shortsighted plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan.  I predicted such an escalation could well prove counterproductive and send the wrong message. With a deteriorating security situation, a corrupt Afghani government, and no comprehensive political outcome yet in sight, the war in Afghanistan is unlikely to find a peaceful resolution. Unfortunately, my prediction is now reality.

Misused War Dollars Needed at Home

Here at home, Oregonians are out of work, teachers are facing budget cuts, police departments are overstretched, and yet the President and much of Congress continue to cling to the idealistic notion that another 12 months and 30 billion more dollars will give us the edge we need to “finish the job” in Afghanistan.

I don’t buy it.  Even before General McChrystal was fired, he admitted that the mission in Afghanistan was going to take much longer and be much harder than originally thought. There is no meaningful government outside of Kabul, the Afghani security forces are in disarray, and there is unbelievable corruption throughout the Karzi government, police, and security forces.  This means President Obama’s dictate of handing the reigns over to the Karzi government and starting a withdrawal next summer is not realistic.

I am increasingly concerned that the Afghanistan war has drawn the U.S. into a black hole, not much different than Vietnam, where we propped up a corrupt government that had no relationship to the rest of the country.  After nine years of war and the loss of more than 1,000 American soldiers, I have no confidence that the Karzi government will ever be able to stand on its own.

The President should reconsider his policy in Afghanistan and move toward a much less expensive, much less troop intensive strategy that could bring about a much better result in Afghanistan.  While the President has not accepted the situation for what it is, there is a groundswell of opposition brewing beyond the beltway and in the House of Representatives.

Recent War Votes Explained

The House recently approved H.R. 4899, the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010 which included $37 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  However, 162 Members – myself included – voted for the Obey/McGovern amendment that requires the President to draft a plan by April 2011 on the safe, orderly and expeditious redeployment of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, including a timeframe for completion. Congress would also get a straight vote by July 2011 to block the expenditure of funds for Afghanistan that are not consistent with the President’s announced policy of December 2009 to begin the drawdown of troops in July 2011. Finally, the amendment also requires a new National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan in January 2011.  A similar National Intelligence Estimate in Iraq helped spotlight the realities in Iraq and brought much greater scrutiny to that war.

The Obey/McGovern amendment was a rational improvement to the bill, but my lack of faith in the Afghanistan government led me to also vote for the Lee Amendment that would have prevented an escalation of U.S. forces and begin to responsibly end the war now by limiting funding to the safe and orderly withdrawal of our troops and military contractors from Afghanistan.

I will continue to challenge the Obama Administration on their Afghanistan strategy.  Φ

Rep. Peter DeFazio represents Oregon’s Fourth District in Congress.

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