The president was right in his Wednesday night speech that we need to begin bringing our troops home from Afghanistan. But a counter-terrorism strategy doesn't need 70,000 boots on the ground, any more than it needed 100,000 boots on the ground.
What the president needed to tell us is how -- and when -- he's going to bring all the troops home.
Late last month, we co-sponsored an amendment calling on the Obama administration to develop an exit strategy from Afghanistan that came within a few votes of passage in the U.S. House.
As members of the Out of Afghanistan Caucus, we believe the strong, bipartisan vote for our amendment demonstrates that there is a growing consensus -- in Congress and in the country -- for a dramatic change in our Afghanistan policy.
As we approach the 10-year anniversary of our military engagement in that country, the president should tell us when all of our troops will be coming home, and how much it will cost the American people -- in sacrificed lives, wounded bodies and minds and tax dollars -- until this war is finally over.
The operation that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden demonstrated that the men and women of our armed forces and intelligence community are incredible people. The world is now a better, safer place.
The question then becomes: Now what? Now that bin Laden is dead and al-Qaida is scattered around the globe, does it really make sense to continue sacrificing American lives and propping up a corrupt government? We don't think so.
Remember -- we didn't find bin Laden on the front lines of Afghanistan. He was comfortably holed up in a mansion in Pakistan. We must continue to target al Qaeda wherever they are in the world. But continuing to be bogged down in Afghanistan makes that mission harder, not easier.
In December, the corrupt president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, made it clear that he would rather align himself with the Taliban than with the U.S. So why are we sacrificing so many in terms of dead and wounded soldiers and billions of dollars to support him?
We believe that bin Laden's death creates an opportunity to wholly re-examine our policy and to require the administration to tell us exactly how and when we will end our massive troop presence in Afghanistan.
Our amendment would have required the president to give Congress a concrete strategy and timeframe for bringing our servicemen and women home to their families and communities. That's not too much to ask.
And by the way -- we're not even paying for this war. It's actually financed on the national credit card. The war in Afghanistan adds $100 billion a year in military costs alone -- $2 billion each week, $8 billion each month -- to our debt.
These are difficult economic and budgetary times. Programs that we care deeply about -- like job-training dollars for the unemployed, heating assistance for low-income families, Pell Grants, transportation funding -- are being slashed. We're told that we can't afford vital domestic funding, but we should continue to borrow billions and billions of dollars for nation building in Afghanistan. What we really should be doing is nation building right here at home.
Instead of building roads, bridges, hospitals and schools halfway around the world in Afghanistan, we should be re-directing those resources to the urgent needs of our own country.
We need a plan for the safe, orderly and expedited withdrawal of all of our forces from Afghanistan. That's what our amendment would have required. We are hopeful that with enough public pressure, we can provide some wind at the back of the president to help him do the right thing.
This war is the longest in our history. And there's no end in sight. We've completed our original mission and now it's time we bring all of our troops home. Let's take the billions of dollars we're spending there and invest it in the future of our own great country.
Rep. David Cicilline represents Rhode Island's First Congressional District. Rep. James McGovern represents Massachusetts's Third District.
Follow Rep. Jim McGovern on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RepMcGovern