In late March, the House of Representatives soundly rejected a call to withdraw American troops by the end of the year, in a strong bipartisan endorsement by President Obama’s administration policy in Afghanistan.
According to NY times, after spending over three hours to debate allowing antiwar Democrats to air their dissent, the House voted 356 to 65 to reject the withdrawal proposal.
Dozens of Mr Obama’s Democrats in the House did support the pullout resolution, indicating a divison over the war policy ahead of November’s Congressional election, in which Republicans are expected to make gains. Five Republicans joined 60 Democrats in support of pulling out; 189 Democrats and 167 Republicans were opposed. The supporters of the resolution said it was time for the lawmakers to consider if they wanted to continue the nearly nine-year-old war in Afghanistan in which about 1,000 US soldiers have been killed and hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent.
“Unless the Congress acts to claim its constitutional responsibility, we will stay in Afghanistan for a very, very long time at great cost to our troops and to our national priorities, “said Ohio Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich. According to Air Force Times, Kucinich based his resolution on the 1973 War Powers Act, passed during the Vietnam War era to require the president to obtain congressional approval when he sends troops to a conflict for more than 90 days.
Reuters reports that arguments were made by detractors that the US could not withdraw from Afghanistan before the government there was able to provide security. Concerns arise that the Taliban could then provide safe haven for Al Qaeda once again.
“I’m keenly aware that even if we remain in Afghanistan- and here I want to emphasise this– there’s no guarantee that we will prevail in our fight against al Qaeda. But if we don’t try, we are guaranteed to fail,” said Representative Howard Berman, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Aware that many liberal Democrats are unhappy about the continuing war, President Obama has said the plan is to begin withdrawing US Forces from Afghanistan from July 2011.
The United States already plans to pull its troops from Iraq by the end of the next year. Both wars began under George W. Bush, President Obama’s Republican predecessor as president.