26 Republicans join Democrats on Afghan withdrawal vote
By CHARLES HOSKINSON
5/26/11 4:29 PM EDT Updated: 5/26/11 11:06 PM EDT
In the latest sign that support for military operations in Afghanistan is waning since the death of Osama bin Laden, the House rejected an accelerated U.S. withdrawal in a surprisingly close vote.
Twenty-six Republicans voted for the amendment from Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) as it failed, 204-215. The measure would have required a plan and timeframe leading toward a U.S. withdrawal and negotiations with the Taliban to seek a political solution to the decade-old war.
Obama is expected to decide soon how many U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan starting in July with an eye toward a total withdrawal by 2014. Since bin Laden’s death in an overnight raid May 1-2 by U.S. Navy SEALs, Obama has been under increasing pressure to accelerate that timetable.
Part of it is public fatigue with a war now in its 10th year. Another part is growing frustration in Congress with Pakistan, whose support is essential to the U.S. effort. But it’s also because Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other officials have publicly stated that bin Laden’s death provides an opportunity to bring U.S. involvement to a quicker end.
In a “60 Minutes” episode aired May 15, Gates said bin Laden’s death could be a “game changer” that could lead to peace talks.
“If we keep the military pressure on and continue to hold what we seized over the last year and expand the security envelope, a change in the relationship between al Qaeda and the Taliban could, in fact, this fall or winter, create the circumstances where a reconciliation process could go forward,” he said.
But military leaders are concerned about a potential loss of public support just as the “clear, hold and build” strategy is beginning to show signs of success.
Even though the Taliban have been able to launch a string of successful attacks in their most recent spring offensive, they largely have been unable to reclaim ground lost over the winter.
David Rogers contributed to this story
Friday, May 27
Why don't you speak louder Sec. Gates, to make sure every terrorist in Afghanistan and Pakistan can hear you?
I don't blame Gates for shooting off his mouth; he's tired of war. But we need fresh reinforcements from the top down at the Pentagon and State. Everyone directly involved in the Afghan War effort. And we need Petraeus or someone else with medals on his chest to read the riot act to the U.S. House of Representatives.