National Security Network

Time to get out of Afghanistan

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News Seattle pi 17 June 2011

Afghanistan Afghanistan Robert Gates War in Afghanistan

MINNEAPOLIS – The war in Afghanistan, American’s longest, is bleeding the country not in casualty figures, but in financial costs, a surprising number of people across the political spectrum seem to agree.

“We will spend $365 billion in three years at the current burn rate in Afghanistan,” retired Army Maj. General Paul Eaton told a liberal Netroots Nation panel here.

The talk of cost, heard at Republicans’ Monday presidential debate, dominated war discussions at the conference of bloggers on the Democratic left.

Eaton, who once had the unenviable job of training the new Iraq army, argued there is a “prudent” way out – develop Afghanistan’s forces and concentrate American troops on counterterrorism. Eaton lives in Pierce County.

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., flew into Minneapolis from Congress’ budget battles and sounded a message often heard from Republicans: “We’re going broke.”

“We’re debating whether to take away old Mrs. O’Leary’s home heating assistance, but we are (Afghan) President Karzai’s ATM machine,” McGovern argued.

Steve Clemons, organizer of the Afghanistan Study Group, is talking to both Republicans and Democrats. He finds growing bipartisan agreement on the need for a substantial troop withdrawal. President Barack Obama is set to announce his decision before the end of the month. “We will spend $119 billion this year in a country with a Gross Domestic Product of $14 billion,” Clemons said.

He has found such Republicans as presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, ex-GOP National Chairman Michael Steele and even acid-tongued right-wing scribe Ann Coulter agreeing that it’s time to scale back the Afghan war.

“They see the environment shaping up very much like 1968,” said Clemons, who used to head the Nixon Center. Rejecting a Pentagon for more 200,000 more soldiers in Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson on March 31, 1968 announced a partial scale back of the Vietnam War and said he would not seek a new term in office.

The Afghanistan War, like the Vietnam conflict, has diverted America’s resources to an Asian country far from the world’s geopolitical centers. “We have created a Moby Dick in Afghanistan which is irrelevant to key issues we face in the world,” Clemons added.

If Coulter and Steele are surprising doves, other newly-minted peaceniks in the political aviary raise eyebrows as well.

Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., a power on the Defense Appropriation subcommittee, is pushing for an accelerated troop withdrawal.

The House only narrowly defeated, by a 215-204 vote, a bipartisan resolution calling for an Afghanistan exit strategy. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., a senior House Armed Services Committee member, voted for the resolution.

The United States is going to be in Afghanistan, albeit at troop levels, for a long time, according to Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., an outspoken withdrawal advocate. He pointed out that Afghanistan’s security forces cost almost as much to maintain as the country’s GDP.

“It’s not in America’s interests just to leave,” Garamendi said.

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