Looking Behind the Numbers of House Afghanistan Vote

On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives failed to represent the majority of Americans who believe we should end the US led military occupation of Afghanistan and close the open ended military commitment to the second most corrupt government on earth. Instead, the US government will borrow an additional $33 billion to fuel the growing escalation of US military forces in the longest war in the history of the United States.

The vote was a disappointment, but there are some hopeful trend lines. The number of Democrats voting against borrowing and spending more money for war increased from 32 last year to 102 yesterday. And many of those who now oppose the war are key members of the Democratic leadership team and close to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They include George Miller (D-CA), John Larson (D-CN), Rosa DeLauro (D-CN) and the Congressman in line to Chair the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Jim Moran (D-VA). Not a single member of Democratic leadership spoke in favor of the president's request for war funding during yesterday's debate. Two weeks ago, Speaker Pelosi even took the unusual step of voting for a measure on the floor - Congressman Jim McGovern's amendment that would require the administration to close the open ended military commitment to the Karzai government and produce an exit strategy with a time certain for the withdrawal of US forces. No, these steps did not end the war, but they are steps in the right direction. We need to build on them.

Congressman Norm Dicks, next in line to Chair the House Appropriations Committee, and Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, point to two key components of success in the war: a competent and non-corrupt government and an army capable of taking over responsibility for Afghanistan's security. Progress toward both of them is non-existent and there is virtually no chance that will improve in the months ahead. Things are getting worse when it comes to the incompetent and corrupt Afghanistan government, a corrupt national police force that continues to prey on the Afghan population, and an Afghan Army that is seen by the local population in southern Afghanistan - the focus of the war - as foreign occupiers who do not even speak the language. Yet success in these areas is critical for our counterinsurgency strategy. Not a shred of evidence has been produced in the last nine years of war that they are improving. In fact, they are deteriorating.

The troop escalation has not only failed to bring security and stability to this desperate country, but has accelerated the violence, increasing the number of suicide bombings, IED attacks and the number of young American men and women killed in action. And it is fueling the recruitment efforts of the Taliban-led insurgency by providing further evidence of a foreign military occupation that most Afghans oppose. In the last five years, the ranks of the Taliban have ballooned eight-fold.

The classified reports on the war in Afghanistan released this week by WikiLeaks illustrate the impossibility of the mission that has been assigned to our men and women in uniform. It is unconscionable to send these young Americans to Afghanistan to risk their lives for a strategy that is built on quicksand. Congress failed these men and women this week and they failed the majority of Americans who want an end to this debacle.

But the fact remains that Tuesday's Supplemental Appropriation vote demonstrated growing opposition in the House to endless war in Afghanistan. All the more reason to increase the volume of the majority of Americans who want to bring this military occupation to an end and bring our men and women in uniform home.

There is no time to waste. The $33 billion approved for the war only gets the Pentagon to September 30. The administration is asking for $157.8 billion MORE dollars for the war for the fiscal year starting on October 1. That request will be on the floor of the House this fall.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.