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March 09, 2010

House Votes Down Afghan Withdrawal Resolution

by Jim Malone

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected a resolution calling for a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.  The vote was 356 against and 65 in favor of the resolution.  Even though the final tally was not close, the debate in the House gave anti-war lawmakers an opportunity to vent their frustrations about the war.

The effort to end U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan was led by a familiar anti-war face in Congress, Democrat Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.

Kucinich said the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan was approved shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and that it was time for Congress to reconsider America's commitment there.

"To reflect on our responsibility for troop casualties that are now reaching 1000, to look at our responsibilities for the cost of the war, which approaches $250 billion, our responsibility for the civilian casualties and the human costs of the war," said Dennis Kucinich.

Kucinich is also a longtime opponent of the war in Iraq.  He made a name for himself as an anti-war candidate during the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries.

Kucinich offered a motion on the House floor that directed the president to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan within 30 days or by the end of the year, if the 30 day deadline was deemed unsafe.

The Ohio representative won the support of only 60 Democrats and five Republicans in the House vote.  They are frustrated by the length of the conflict in Afghanistan and they opposed President Barack Obama's decision late last year to send additional troops.

The vast majority of Republicans and Democrats opposed the resolution.

Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the top Republican on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, noted the recent success of a U.S.-led offensive in Afghanistan.

"Our brave men and women are making steady progress against the deadly foe and are doing so at great risk to their lives," said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. "This offensive is already producing dramatic success, including the capture of senior Taliban leaders, the routing of their forces and the stabilization of key areas.  A winning strategy should be supported, not undermined."

Several Democrats joined Republicans in speaking out against the withdrawal resolution, including Representative Howard Berman of California, the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

"If we withdraw from Afghanistan before the government is capable of providing a basic level of security for its own people, we face the prospect that the Taliban once again will take the reins of power in Kabul and provide a safe haven to al-Qaida," said Howard Berman. "That would be a national security disaster."

Even though the House easily rejected the call to pull out U.S. troops from Afghanistan, there were many complaints about the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai from members on both side of the issue.

New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler supported the withdrawal resolution.

"We should not use our troops to prop up a corrupt government," said Jerrold Nadler. "It is simply not justifiable to sacrifice more lives and more money on this war."

Supporters of the resolution to force a U.S. withdrawal knew that they did not have the votes to succeed.  But they wanted to use the debate to vent their frustrations over the cost of the war and their concerns about America's military strategy in Afghanistan.

President Obama says he would like to begin the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July of next year.  During a trip to Afghanistan on Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. troop drawdown could begin sooner than that, based on conditions on the ground.