This morning, the Senate debated Sen. Russ Feingold’s (D-WI) amendment to the war supplemental bill, which called on President Obama to provide a flexible timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan to Congress. Arguing for the amendment on the floor, Feingold complained that he is “disppointed that” Congress is passing a bill “providing tens of billions of dollars to keep this war going with so little public debate about whether this approach makes any sense.” After Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) objected to the Feingold amendment, arguing that it sends the wrong message to the region, Feingold retorted, “The Senator suggests that somehow this sends the wrong message to the region. The real wrong message is that we intend to be there forever”:
FEINGOLD: In light of our deficit and domestic needs and in light of rising casualty rates in Afghanistan and in light of the growing Al Qaeda threat around the world, an expensive troop-intensive nation-building campaign just doesn’t add up for me. We should be focusing on Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and other terrorist safe havens. Frankly I am disappointed that we are about to pass a bill providing tens of billions of dollars to keep this war going with so little public debate about whether this approach makes any sense.
LEVIN: If we adopt the Feingold amendment, Mrs. Madame president, we’ll be sending a…message to the government and people of Afghanistan. It would reinforce the fear, if we adopt this amendment, already a deep seated fear in Afghanistan, that the United States will abandon the region. That is a message that we can ill afford to send regarding the future stability of Afghanistan, and it is a particularly unwise message to send while our forces are still deploying to Afghanistan.
FEINGOLD: The Senator suggests that somehow this sends the wrong message to the region. The real wrong message is that we intend to be there forever.
Following the debate, the Feingold amendment was voted down 18-80. See the roll call vote here. This past Tuesday, the Defense Department released troop numbers that reveal there are now more U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan than Iraq.