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Rep. Barbara Lee Headshot

Ten Years too Long in Afghanistan

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Soon the war in Afghanistan will enter its tenth year. Already the longest war in our nation's history, one thing remains clear -- there is no end in sight.

Nine years ago, we were told we had to go to Afghanistan to capture Osama bin Laden and destroy al Qaeda with virtually no discussion of the potential consequences of invading Afghanistan would be. Few people imagined we would have nearly 100,000 troops there a decade later, despite the fact that the CIA estimates that there may be less than 100 al Qaeda in that country.

Americans are asking some pointed questions. What is our mission? How is it going to be achieved? And when are the troops coming home?

We learned some disturbing answers to those questions in the Rolling Stone feature article about Gen. Stanley McChrystal. While the subsequent controversy centered on McChrystal's comments and subsequent resignation, many overlooked the stunning revelations about the war in Afghanistan. According to senior military officials quoted in the article, our strategy is not succeeding and the outcome of the war will leave questions about what we achieved. Major General Bill Mayville, Chief of Operations for the war, was quoted as saying: "It's not going to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win. This is going to end in an argument."

Additionally, the recent documents released by Wikileaks only validate the growing anxiety of the American people with the direction of the war in Afghanistan.

A new USA Today/Gallup poll found that 57 percent support a timetable for removing troops from Afghanistan and 62 percent believe the war in Afghanistan is going "very or moderately badly."

It's not difficult to see why people are so pessimistic. The Afghan government is plagued by incompetence and corruption. As President Karzai makes ambitious promises to reform before the international community, we continue to see reports of officials within his Administration actively undermining U.S. counter-corruption investigations.

If that weren't enough, the Afghan security force is in shambles with high rates of attrition and defection. Our recent offensive in Marjah has been less successful than expected, and our operation for Kandahar -- a city that many regard as key to securing the country -- has been postponed. Finally, to date, just over 1000 servicemen and women have lost their lives.

Our men and women have performed with incredible courage and commitment -- but they have been put in an impossible situation. Tragically, July has now become the deadliest month for American forces since the war began.

I wish I could believe that if we stay in Afghanistan, a year or even five years from now, the country will have a stable, functioning government. But I see no evidence that this will be the case. We will likely see the generals come back to us in a year and ask for more time and more troops -- regardless of the situation is getting better or worse.

Let's face it: If the Congress allows it, this will be an endless war. Enough is enough. We need to end this war now.

The U.S. has no choice but to pursue a political solution. We must reduce the size if our military footprint and engage with all relevant local and regional actors. Our goal should be to use our substantial political, economic, and diplomatic pressure to ensure that the Afghanistan government does not accept any political settlement in which the Taliban fails to commit to upholding the human rights outlined in the Afghan constitution, and renounce support for al Qaeda.

Last week, I introduced legislation to prevent an escalation and responsibly end the war by limiting funding to the safe and orderly withdrawal of our troops and military contractors from Afghanistan. This legislation already has strong support and received 100 votes when I proposed it as an amendment.

Nine years ago, I was the lone voice in this effort. Now there are many more of us speaking with one voice to bring about a responsible end to this war. This was a step in the right direction. And each step brings us closer to ending this war.