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US Lawmakers Calling for Faster Withdrawal From Afghanistan

  • Cindy Saine

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., center, accompanied by fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus, speaks to reporters outside the White House in Washington, following a meeting with President Barack Obama. (File Photo)
CAPITOL HILL, Washington, D.C.- A bipartisan group of 86 members of the U.S. House of Representatives has written a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to bring the war in Afghanistan to an accelerated end.

Democratic Representative Barbara Lee of California is the only one of the 435 members of the House who voted against authorizing the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan in 2001.

Now, Lee is spearheading efforts to bring U.S. troops home faster than the planned withdrawal of NATO combat troops in 2014.

"Today we are announcing that 86 members of Congress, a bipartisan group of members, are joining us in requesting that President Obama expedite our troops' return and speed up the transition to having Afghans in charge of Afghanistan," she said.

Several of the lawmakers who signed the letter gathered to talk to reporters, saying extending the war is only going to mean more young American men and women in uniform will die or lose their limbs in Afghanistan.

Republican Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina said there are pressing needs at home that require taxpayer money.

"When we have schools in America that need to be rebuilt, when we have roads that need to be rebuilt, bridges, infrastructure, and we are sending $10 billion a month to Afghanistan for the Afghans to build roads and then blow them up, and have our young men and women to walk the roads in Afghanistan to be shot and killed, it is time to bring them home, Mr. President," said Jones.

Democratic Representative Peter Welch of Vermont pointed out that the president has already set a date for U.S. combat troops to come home.

"The war in Afghanistan is over, it just has not ended yet," said Welch. "The president has made it clear that we are bringing our troops home in 2014. Many of our allies are accelerating their departure. So everyone who is engaged in this knows that it is ending. And the question that we are asking is 'Why not sooner rather than later?"

In their letter to the president, the 86 members say while they would prefer an immediate full withdrawal from Afghanistan, there is broad consensus in Congress that it is time to accelerate the transition to full Afghan control. They asked President Obama to announce an accelerated transition of security responsibility at the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago.

Several lawmakers said the American people appear to be ahead of their elected representatives in calling for U.S. troops to come home.

"The American people are against what is going on, it seems like we are such slow learners in Washington." said Republican Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas.

Recent opinion surveys show that American public support for the war in Afghanistan is down to 27 percent, and only 37 percent of Republicans support the ongoing war effort. But some Republican lawmakers have criticized the president for moving too quickly to draw down American troops from Afghanistan, jeopardizing hard won gains.