News / USA

US Lawmakers Debate Afghanistan Ahead of Obama Speech

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 16, 2011 (file photo)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 16, 2011 (file photo)
Michael Bowman

Hours before President Barack Obama's address on the future of U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan, lawmakers in Washington passionately debated the costs and benefits of a war that has lasted nearly 10 years.

Polls show Americans increasingly weary and disillusioned about the war in Afghanistan. Many of their representatives on Capitol Hill say they, too, are fatigued and frustrated.

"I implore the president: end the war, bring our troops home," noted Democratic Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey of California who took to the House floor with a message for President Obama.  "This must not be a token withdrawal. How many more lives have to be destroyed, how many more Americans have to leave limbs behind in Afghanistan, and how many more billions in taxpayer money do we have to waste?"

That sentiment is not limited to Democrats. Republican Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina urged the United States to declare victory in Afghanistan and end the war.

"Bring the troops home," said Jones.  "History has proven you will never change Afghanistan. They [Afghans] do not want to change themselves. Quite frankly, the Taliban are Afghan people. It is a civil war."

An Army carry team carries the transfer cases containing the remains of Army Spc. Scott D. Smith of Indianapolis, Indiana upon arrival at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware on June 21, 2011.
An Army carry team carries the transfer cases containing the remains of Army Spc. Scott D. Smith of Indianapolis, Indiana upon arrival at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware on June 21, 2011.

House Speaker John Boehner told reporters he understands public sentiment on the matter.

"The American people are weary about Afghanistan," said Boehner.  "You cannot blame them. You have 100,000 of our men and women fighting in this desert over there. But remember why we are there. We are there because the Taliban had taken over Afghanistan. They had provided a safe haven to al Qaida. The goal here is to make sure they do not have that safe haven."

Boehner added that, having invested so much in Afghanistan, the United States should not jeopardize gains made in the country.

The chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Democrat Patty Murray of Washington, reminded fellow-lawmakers of the hidden costs of war.

"With all the talk about troop levels, I want to make sure that we remember this is not just about numbers," said Murray.  "It is about real people with real families. We all hear about how expensive war is while we are fighting it. But for so many of our servicemembers, what happens on the battlefield is just the beginning. We are seeing suicide rates that are much higher among active-duty servicemembers and veterans than among civilians. We are watching as these men and women are sent out on tour after tour. Too often, they are having a tough time finding a job when they come home."

The tough economy and America's fiscal woes were clearly on the mind of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia when he spoke late Tuesday.

"We can no longer have it all," said Manchin.  "The question the president faces is quite simple. Will we choose to rebuild America or Afghanistan? In light of our nation's fiscal perils, we cannot do both."

Manchin's comments drew a swift rebuke from Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona.

"We withdrew from Afghanistan onetime [after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989]. And the Taliban came, followed by al Qaida, followed by attacks on the United States of America. If we leave Afghanistan in defeat, we will repeat the lessons of history," added Manchin.

From the beginning of his administration, President Obama has promised to listen to his commanders when making decisions about America's foreign military commitments. House Speaker Boehner counseled the president to continue that practice when it comes to Afghanistan.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid