WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – Senators from both sides of the aisle are urging President Obama to end the over 12-year war in Afghanistan and provide a minimal number of American troops past 2014.
In a letter sent Wednesday, Republican Sen. Rand Paul and Democrats Jeff Merkley and Sherrod Brown stepped across party lines to form a union against U.S. combat in Afghanistan.
“Mr. President, our valiant men and women have fought bravely in Afghanistan for over a decade,” the senators wrote in the letter. “But after twelve years of conflict, it is time to bring our troops home. We urge you to heed the wishes of the majority of Americans by bringing our sons and daughters home safely and swiftly, and, in doing so, ending America’s longest war.”
Last October, Sen. Merkley argued that al-Qaeda is stronger in other parts of the world and that nation-building in Afghanistan has gone off track. His measure endorsed Obama’s timetable to withdraw all combat troops by the end of 2014 but pressed for a quicker pace, without specifying how that would be achieved.
The letter sent by the three senators this week also highlights the reality of a 2014 end-date not actually ending the U.S.’s military involvement on the ground in Afghanistan.
“After 2014, we urge you to keep only as many troops necessary to pursue a limited counter-terrorism mission and assist in training the Afghan Nation Security Forces,” the senators wrote.
The call to limit the number of U.S. troops after 2014 is in opposition to several generals – such as James N. Mattis of Central Command – who are calling for 20,000 troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014.
U.S. and NATO officials are discussing a plan of 8,000 to 12,000 troops, with some additions from American and allied forces. The White House floated a so-called zero option of no troops beyond 2014; however, the Wall Street Journal reported that the administration had not asked senior military officials to assess the scenario.
The senators’ letter also took issue with President Obama’s messages from his inauguration this past January.
“In your inaugural address, you stated: ‘We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.’ The next few months present a genuine opportunity to fulfill this goal in a manner consistent with core U.S. national security interests.”