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The Guns of August and Afghanistan

by John Nichols

Yes, yes, of course, everyone is talking about healthcare and the "mobs" of foes and supporters of reform confronting members of Congress during this month's House and Senate recess.

I'm with the small "d" democrats on this one: bring on the mobs.

The more citizens the merrier. The more raucous debate the better.

But let's also bring on the issues. All of them.

Healthcare is important. But its not the only challenge that Congress will have to deal with in the fall.

Members of Congress are using the August recess to survey constituent sentiments on a host of matters. And one of them deserves dramatically increased attention: the misguided occupation of Afghanistan.

At the very least, members of the House should be urged to sign on as cosponsors of H.R. 2404, which would "require the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress outlining the United States exit strategy for United States military forces in Afghanistan participating in Operation Enduring Freedom."

So far, 95 members, including a number of Republicans, have signed on as co-sponsors of Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern's proposal.

But just calling for an exit strategy is not enough.

Members of the House and Senate should he urged to support the rapid withdrawl of US troops from Afghanistan.

I give credit to Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin -- an H.R. 2404 co-sponsor who has a record of opposing military misadventures abroad -- for asking the right question in a constituent survey circulated this month.

To wit:

 

Which of the following comes closest to your feelings about American involvement in Afghanistan?

1. American troops should be brought home from Afghanistan as soon as possible

2. American troop presence in Afghanistan should stay the same, and their mission should include stabilizing the nation

3. American troop presence in Afghanistan should increase and their mission should include stabilizing the nation

4. American troops should remain in Afghanistan, but their only mission should be that authorized by Congress--to track down and bring to justice those responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

5. None of these statements accurately reflects my views

6. No opinion

I'm for the first option: "American troops should be brought home from Afghanistan as soon as possible."

Yes, that's a blunt choice, especially with regard to so complex a country and region -- and especially after the United States has poured so much energy into the Afghanistan imbroglio.

But it's also the best choice.

Pulling US troops out does not represent an abandonment of Afghanistan. Rather, it is a recognition that the current course has failed to achieve any of the goals outlined by the Bush-Cheney administration when the country was invaded or by the Obama-Biden administration when it recommitted to the mission.

Despite what President Obama imagines, increasing the US troops' presence in Afghanistan will simply make a misguided mission more misguided -- not to mention more deadly and more expensive.

Ultimately, the US may support a genuine multinational response – either through the United Nations or by a regional bloc -- to threats posed either by the instability of Afghanistan or by groups operating in that country and neighboring Pakistan.

But that response will only be appropriate and effective if US troops are withdrawn and the ridiculous North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) overlay on operations in that country has been ended.

Afghanistan is a complicated country.

There are real issues to be addressed there, and the international community may have a role.

But the US role of occupier needs to end. Now.

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