Congressional progressives urge Obama to change Afghanistan strategy

 In Afghanistan

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) talks with President Obama. Photo courtesy of Rep. Lee's Facebook page

Leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and its newly formed Afghanistan Taskforce have sent a letter (pdf) to President Obama urging “a comprehensive rethinking of our military mission, a complete redesign of our reconstruction and stabilization strategy and a courageous reconciliation strategy for Afghanistan.” Reps. Mike Honda (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) write:


We are concerned about committing additional US troops and taxpayer dollars in Afghanistan, especially when the US mission is unclear and when methods for measuring effectiveness are underdeveloped or nonexistent.

We are concerned about the economic reconstruction and stabilization strategy, specifically that foreign aid has thus far failed to rebuild Afghan institutions, infrastructure and individual capacity.

We are concerned about the political legitimacy and corruption of the Afghan government, a problem exacerbated by mismanaged elections, foreign aid distribution, and foreign intelligence and security alliances.

Our perspectives have manifested, formally and informally, via Congressional Progressive Caucus Member-led legislation: Requesting a timeline for eventual troop withdrawal (H.R. 2404, Rep. McGovern); requesting measurements for mission success; prohibiting funds for additional troop surges (H.R. 3699, Rep. Lee); and reorienting the current mission to invest 80 percent of foreign resources into political and economic development, with 20 percent towards security, e.g. peacekeeping, Afghan police/army training (Reps Honda and Grijalva). Additionally, our overall strategy in Afghanistan must be guided by smart security, a policy that will put diplomacy and development above the use of force (H. Res. 363, Rep. Woolsey).


As we work tirelessly to push the debate in Afghanistan toward a consideration of nonmilitary options, I am grateful for these progressive leaders who are willing to raise their voices and articulate an alternative vision for our engagement in Afghanistan and our overall foreign policy. The writers of the letter end by requesting a meeting with the president to discuss their ideas further. Members of the Progressive Caucus met with President Obama earlier this year to discuss healthcare reform and Afghanistan, and it is critical that this dialogue continues.

If you’re in the Bay Area, Rep. Lee will be holding a rally and press conference Monday, November 23rd at noon in the courtyard of the Dellums Federal Building in Oakland to support H.R. 3699, her bill to prohibit funds for an escalation in Afghanistan. If you can’t make it, check here next week for a report back, and click here to urge your representative to cosponsor the bill.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Ashley St.Claire

    “The Surge”

    December 6, 2009 by

    “The Surge”

    The war in Afghanistan is also a continuation and expansion of the corporate welfare policy of the Bush administration, which interestingly is not only wholly accepted by President Obama, but is raised to a higher level (surge). The more private contractors sent to Afghanistan, the better for the bottom line (surge) (profit). The more the merrier. Bush or Obama, as always, the interest of the corporate elite is paramount.

    The decrease in violence in Iraq was not a result of President Bush’s strategy of sending 30,000 more troops to Iraq (surge), that President Obama is so desperately trying to duplicate, but it was mainly a result of the U.S. government’s payment of about $10 a day to about 70,000 Sunni insurgents.

    During his speech to the nation explaining his reasons for the Afghanistan “surge”, the president said:

    “So, no, I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak. … In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. And this danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and al Qaeda can operate with impunity. We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region.”

    I thought I was listening to President Bush. Word for word the same message, but, a different messenger, one who is more articulate. He also used Bush’s tactic of scaring the American public, the danger to America “is no idle danger, no hypothetical threat”. The only thing missing from his speech was that, he didn’t use the threat level colors. It is too early in his presidency; we might still see him use the threat levels in the future.

    The president’s troop” surge” in the Afghanistan war has made his Conservative Republican friends temporarily happy, but members of his own political party and the American citizens at large are not supportive of his so-called “surge”. While America is facing a massive unemployment, millions of citizens without health insurance, the country burdened with cumbersome and chocking growing debt, to say the least, the president’s choice of the Afghanistan “surge” at this particular moment, seems to be unwise.

    Professor Mekonen Haddis.

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