The Senate will vote soon on an amendment to speed up the withdrawal of US combat troops from Afghanistan, introduced as a “Sense of the Senate” resolution by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Co-sponsors include Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and two Republicans, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).
In the House, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) is developing legislation to cut off funding for Afghanistan except as needed for the “safe and orderly” exit of American troops.
President Obama currently plans to withdraw all combat forces by December 2014. 33,000 will be pulling out by this time next year, leaving 68,000. The Senate resolution is intended to push the White House to a more rapid withdrawal, and requires a timetable be sent to Congress within 90 days after enactment. Similar bills were utilized in the multi-year effort to end the US military occupation of Iraq.
Meanwhile US and Afghan leaders are trying to negotiate a status-of-forces agreement to keep thousands of American troops beyond the 2014 deadline. On the Afghan side, President Karzai says that a long-term American force would be welcome but would be required to end house-to-house searches, night raids and detentions, terms the Pentagon is expected to reject.
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The text of Sen. Merkley's resolution is as follows:
Resolution on Afghanistan offered on November 17 to National Defense Authorization Act
Co-sponsors as of Nov. 17
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
SEC. 1230. SENSE OF CONGRESS ON TRANSITION OF MILITARY AND SECURITY OPERATIONS IN AFGHANISTAN.
(a) FINDINGS.—Congress makes the following findings:
(1) After al Qaeda attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, the United States Government rightly sought to bring to justice those who attacked us, to eliminate al Qaeda’s safe havens and training camps in Afghanistan, and to remove the terrorist-allied Taliban government.
(2) Members of the Armed Forces, intelligence personnel, and diplomatic corps have skillfully achieved these objectives, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden.
(3) Operation Enduring Freedom is now the longest military operation in United States history.
(4) United States national security experts, including Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, have noted that al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has been greatly diminished.
(5) Over the past ten years, the mission of the United States has evolved to include a prolonged na1tion-building effort in Afghanistan, including the creation of a strong central government, a national police force and army, and effective civic institutions.
(6) Such nation-building efforts in Afghanistan are undermined by corruption, high illiteracy, and a historic aversion to a strong central government in
(7) Members of the Armed Forces have served in Afghanistan valiantly and with honor, and many have sacrificed their lives and health in service to
(8) The United States is now spending nearly $10,000,000,000 per month in Afghanistan at a time when, in the United States, there is high unemployment, a flood of foreclosures, a record deficit, and a debt that is over $15,000,000,000,000 and growing.
(9) The continued concentration of United States and NATO military forces in one region, when terrorist forces are located in many parts of the world, is not an efficient use of resources.
(10) The battle against terrorism is best served by using United States troops and resources in a counterterrorism strategy against terrorist forces wherever they may locate and train.
(11) The United States Government will continue to support the development of Afghanistan with a strong diplomatic and counterterrorism presence in the region.
(12) President Barack Obama is to be commended for announcing in July 2011 that the United States would commence the redeployment of members of the United States Armed Forces from Afghanistan in 2011 and transition security control to the Government of Afghanistan.
(13) President Obama has established a goal of removing all United States combat troops from Afghanistan by December 2014.
(b) SENSE OF CONGRESS.—It is the sense of Congress that—
(1) the President should expedite the transition of the responsibility for military and security operations in Afghanistan to the Government of Afghanistan;
(2) the President should devise a plan based on inputs from military commanders, the diplomatic missions in the region, and appropriate members of the Cabinet, along with the consultation of Congress, for expediting the drawdown of United States combat troops in Afghanistan and accelerating the transfer of security authority to Afghan authorities prior to December 2014; and
(3) not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President should submit to Congress a plan with a timetable and completion date for the accelerated transition of all military and security operations in Afghanistan to the Government of Afghanistan.