On September 14, 2001, I placed the lone vote against the "Authorization of Use of Force" -- an authorization that I knew would provide a blank check to wage war anywhere, at any time, and for any length. Nearly a decade later, the United States remains embroiled in the longest war in our nation's history in Afghanistan, longer than Vietnam and World War II.
The fact is, we cannot continue to funnel billions of dollars a week toward a counterproductive military-first strategy in Afghanistan while sacrificing vital domestic priorities such as quality education, affordable health care, and much-needed investments to create jobs and jump start the economy.
And that is why today I will re-introduce my legislation, The Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act, which would end combat operations in Afghanistan and limit funding to the safe orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops and military contractors.
This week, the U.S. House of Representatives remains in the throes of a budget debate that will determine the trajectory of our nation in the face of great economic challenges -- a return to the failed Republican policies of the past which precipitated the economic crisis and two unfunded wars, or a commitment to bolster our diplomatic and development capabilities while increasing investment in our communities at home to create jobs, protect public health and safety, and spark American innovation.
The mounting costs of the war in Afghanistan and out-of-control spending at the Pentagon have never been more relevant. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost nearly $1.2 trillion since 2001. Meanwhile, U.S. military spending has more than doubled over the past decade, now accounting for nearly 60 cents of every federal discretionary dollar and totaling more than $700 billion per year.
The trade-offs are clear. The estimated costs the war in Afghanistan in 2011, totaling more than $100 billion, could provide for 1.6 million new police officers on our streets or elementary school teachers in our schools. It could provide for 19.3 million students to receive Pell Grants of $5,550 to assist in continuing their education.
Military and foreign policy experts agree there is no military solution in Afghanistan. Ending the war in Afghanistan is not just a budget imperative, but a national security imperative. It is the first step toward reorienting our national security policy to reduce the threat of terrorism and alleviate the conditions that produce conflict in a more effective and sustainable manner.
Hastening a responsible end to the war in Afghanistan is not a partisan issue. Recent polling indicates 72 percent of Americans, an overwhelming majority, support action to "speed up the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan." The Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act already has bipartisan support in the House. Members of Congress in both parties are increasingly opposing a policy of open-ended war and looking toward an orderly, responsible drawdown in Afghanistan.
This momentum for a change in course in Afghanistan was evident last year, when 100 House Members voted in support of my amendment to limit funding in Afghanistan to the safe and orderly redeployment of U.S. armed forces.
Regardless of the situation in Afghanistan we have seen the Pentagon come back to us asking for more time, more troops, and more resources. In response, it is time for Congress to reassert its constitutional authority and compel the swift, complete withdrawal of all troops and military contractors.
It is time to break the near decade-long status quo of costly, destabilizing war in Afghanistan. It is time to bring our troops home.