Should the Senate Fund 'Enduring' U.S. Military Bases in Afghanistan?

Much ink has been spilled over the President's pledge to begin
withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July 2011. The White House
insists that the date is firm. But the pace of withdrawal is yet to be
determined, and the White House hasn't said a word about when -- if
ever -- a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan will be complete.

There is a signed agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments
that says U.S. troops have to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. But
there is no such agreement for Afghanistan. Yet the majority of
Americans have told pollsters that they think the U.S. should
establish a timetable for military withdrawal.

Meanwhile, Walter Pincus reports
in the Washington Post
, the Pentagon is planning for
years of U.S. combat in Afghanistan:

"Three $100 million air base expansions in southern and
northern Afghanistan illustrate Pentagon plans to continue building
multimillion-dollar facilities in that country to support increased
U.S. military operations well into the future."

Pincus noted that "...many of the installations being built...have
extended time horizons. None of the three expected to be
completed until the latter half of 2011. All of them are for use by
U.S. forces rather than by their Afghan counterparts."

But Pincus also reported that while the House has approved the money
for this "enduring base" construction, the Senate has yet to vote on

Should there not at least be a debate on this issue in the Senate?

There is a strong, recent, and highly relevant precedent for Congress
to reject or alter this funding request. In July 2008, Pincus reported
in the Post
that Congress had rejected Pentagon requests
for military construction in Iraq that seemed "long-term":

Congress eliminated the Army's request for $184 million to
build power plants at five bases in Iraq. Those are to be among the
final bases and support locations where troops, aircraft and equipment
will be consolidated as the U.S. military presence is reduced.

Congress "did not want to do anything in Iraq that seemed long-term,
and the power plants would have taken up to two years to complete," a
Senate staff member told the Post in July 2008.

Why does the Pentagon want "enduring" military bases in Afghanistan?

In his July 2008 article, Pincus noted:

When he initially sought the funds last year, Adm. William
J. Fallon, then commander of U.S. Central Command, described Bagram
[Air Base in Afghanistan] as "the centerpiece for the CENTCOM Master
Plan for future access to and operations in Central

That suggests that the Pentagon's plans are motivated more by a
long-term goal of projecting U.S. military power in the region than
anything to do with the story about building up Afghan forces so we
can leave.

Under the Bush Administration, there was a similar goal for the U.S.
military in Iraq: establishing permanent military bases to project
U.S. military power in the region. But Congress resisted that goal.

Congress should exercise the same oversight over Pentagon plans in
Afghanistan now as it exercised in 2008 over Pentagon plans in Iraq.
Congress should not be funding "enduring" U.S. military bases in

You can write to your two U.S. Senators here.

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