Congress Has the Power and Responsibility to End this War
The House of Representatives will be voting this week, possibly as early as Tuesday, on $33 billion in funding to escalate the war in Afghanistan. The vote comes at a time of embarrassment and evident failure in Afghanistan. Record deaths of troops and Afghan civilian, rapidly rising spending and reports indicating it will just get worse.
The news reports of problems on the ground are bad enough, but the release of 92,000 documents by Wikileaks shows the war is "more grim than the official portrayal," as the New York Times concluded. TIME's Joe Klein reported said that the documents make clear how futile the situation in Afghanistan is and how utterly duplicitous our Pakistani "ally" has been.
Summarizing the Wikileaks war documents, the Guardian says:
" How a secret "black" unit of Special Forces hunts down Taliban leaders for "kill or capture" without trial.
" How the US covered up evidence that the Taliban have acquired deadly surface-to-air missiles.
" How the coalition is increasingly using deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada.
" How the Taliban have caused growing carnage with a massive escalation of their roadside bombing campaign, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date.
The House vote is not a slam dunk but you can be sure that the White House and military establishment will do everything they can to get the supplemental funding. The vote is likely to be close as the previous vote for war funding in the House won with only a five-vote margin. To accomplish that the House leadership had to manipulate the vote so that it was a procedural vote on "a self-executing rule" as well as amendments but not an actual vote on war funding. In addition, the war vote was sweetened with funding for unemployment benefits and state budgets included.
This weeks vote could be even closer. This vote is likely to be an up or down vote on war funding with the economic sweeteners removed by the Senate. It will be a clear vote to which Americans can hold elected officials accountable in the mid-term elections. Let your congress member know you will be watching their vote and it will determine your vote in the fall.
While the Afghan war is America's longest ever, the military has been unsuccessful in developing strategies and tactics that work. General Patraeus, who has taken over command of the war from the fired Stanley McChrystal, says he is reviewing the strategy and changing its emphasis to put more effort on counterinsurgency. In fact, counterinsurgency was McChrystal specialty; indeed it is why he was put in charge of the war. Reports indicate that Patraeus is likely to amend the rules of engagement to allow the deaths of more Afghan civilians. Every civilian death puts success further away. Last Friday there was a report of a mass killing of 52 civilians NATO forces. Civilian deaths is one reason why the Afghanistan security monitor reports that the counterinsurgency tactics are showing no signs of success and that the U.S. military build-up in Kandahar will actually strengthen the Taliban by uniting Afghans in their resistance to the U.S. military.
And, the size of the U.S. troop presence is becoming an absurdity. The U.S. now has 1,000 troops for every single Al-Qaeda operative in Afghanistan and each of those troops cost the U.S. $1 million per year all in borrowed money. In addition, there are even more mercenaries in Afghanistan. The cost of the war mounts to $7 billion per month. More and more Americans are recognizing that the weapons and war budget are wrecking the U.S. middle class.
The strategy of training Afghans to defend themselves has been backfiring. In recent weeks three British troops were killed by an Afghan soldier in HelmandProvince when the Afghan turned and killed them during a joint patrol. A week later, an Afghan soldier opened fire at a training exercise in northern Afghanistan killing two US civilian trainers (aka mercenaries) and a fellow Afghan soldier.
As bad as all of this sounds, Admiral Mike Mullen, America's top military officer warned this weekend that the Afghanistan war will get worse, that there will be more troop deaths as well as deaths of Afghans. Mullen's views are consistent with the number two in command in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez. Rodriguez testified before Congress in early July that while U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan were at record highs during the last two months, deaths will continue climbing for the foreseeable future.