The death of Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad has sparked a wave of reactions on the short- and long-term goals of the American mission in Afghanistan. After the President reported Bin Laden’s death Sunday night, congressional Republicans, who have opposed the administration’s plans to begin withdrawing troops in July, took strides to persuade Americans that the mission was not over simply because Bin Laden was dead.
Florida Rep. Cliff Stearns (R), however, took the opposite position Monday, saying Bin Laden’s death should signal the end of the Afghanistan campaign. The Florida Times-Union reports:
“Most people I talk to say that we need to address our nation’s budget deficit, and we are spending a lot of money in Afghanistan,” he said. “Now that bin Laden has been executed we must go home.”
There were indications before Bin Laden’s death that the July troop drawdown may be larger than expected, with as many as 10,000 troops leaving Afghanistan. With the primary target of the original invasion now dead, the Obama administration could choose to bring even more troops home, especially as it hears calls from Afghan President Hamid Karzai to speed up the withdrawal.
Stearns isn’t alone, as Democratic congressmen and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer have called for an end to the war. Aside from Stearns, however, Republicans have largely continued to resist the possibility of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, choosing to ignore both the war’s costliness and Americans’ weariness of it while trumpeting widespread budget cuts at home. Despite GOP opposition, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that the timetable for beginning the withdrawal will not change in the wake of Bin Laden’s death.
The war in Afghanistan continues to grow costlier, hampering efforts to deal with budget deficits here at home. Stearns is right: with Bin Laden dead, al Qaeda critically weakened in Afghanistan, and Americans focusing on domestic economic problems, it’s time for America begin a significant redeployment.
The Atlantic’s Elspeth Reeve provides a run-down of lawmakers in favor of ending the war.
,Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) told CNN today that President Obama should declare victory in the war on terror and set a definitive timetable for withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan in the wake of Bin Laden’s death:
“[Defense Secretary Robert] Gates has already said we will be there until 2014. I think we ought to be out of Afghanistan in the next year or so,” Jones said, adding, “The leader of al Qaeda is now dead – there are no al Qaeda to speak of in Afghanistan.”
Thursday, Jones and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) will unveil the Afghanistan Exit and Accountability Act, a bill that would require the president to submit a withdrawal plan to Congress that includes specific dates, including when American forces will hand over primary security responsibilities to the Afghan government.