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House Members to Obama: Rethink Afghanistan Surge

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04/02/2009 @ 10:32am

Congressional Democrats and Republicans are signing on to a letter urging President Obama to reconsider his plan to surge tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops into Afghanistan.

"Mr. President, in reviewing the past history of Afghanistan and the nations that have failed to conquer it -- Russia spent nine years in Afghanistan and lost many billions of dollars and more than 15,000 Russian soldiers-- we urge you to reconsider the decision to send an additional 17,000 troops and to resist pressure to escalate even further," reads a "Get on the Right Side of History" letter that has attracted the support of House Democrats Representative Neil Abercrombie, of Hawaii; John Conyers of Michigan; Bob Filner and Mike Honda of California; Steve Kagen of Wisconsin; Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts.

Also signing the letter are Republicans Roscoe Bartlett, of Maryland, Howard Coble and Walter Jones Jr. of North Carolina; John Duncan of Tennessee; Ron Paul of Texas, and Ed Whitfield of Kentucky.

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The full letter from the House members reads:

    Dear Mr. President:

    We have noted with some concern your announcement that an additional 17,000 US troops would be sent to Afghanistan. As the goals of our seven year military involvement remain troublingly unclear, we urge you to reconsider such a military escalation.

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    If the intent is to leave behind a stable Afghanistan capable of governing itself, this military escalation may well be counterproductive. A recent study by the Carnegie Endowment has concluded that "the only meaningful way to halt the insurgency's momentum is to start withdrawing troops. The presence of foreign troops is the most important element driving the resurgence of the Taliban."

    The 2001 authorization to use military force in Afghanistan allowed military action "to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States." Continuing to fight a counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan does not appear to us to be in keeping with these directives and an escalation may actually harm US security.

    In a tape released in 2004, Osama bin Laden stated that al Qaedas' goal was to "bleed.. .America to the point of bankruptcy" in Afghanistan. He continued, "All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note..."

    We would do well to pay attention to these threats and to avoid falling into any such trap through escalation of our military presence in Afghanistan.

    We are also concerned that any perceived military success in Afghanistan might create pressure to increase military activity in Pakistan. This could very well lead to dangerous destabilization in the region and would increase hostility toward the United States.

    Mr. President, in reviewing the past history of Afghanistan and the nations that have failed to conquer it--Russia spent nine years in Afghanistan and lost many billions of dollars and more than 15,000 Russian soldiers--we urge you to reconsider the decision to send an additional 17,000 troops and to resist pressure to escalate even further.

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In addition to the House members who have signed on, the letter has also been endorsed by religious, political and policy advocates from across the ideological spectrum.

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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