Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and a bipartisan group of more than two dozen senators are calling on President Barack Obama to begin a â€œsizable and sustainedâ€ reduction of military forces in Afghanistan next month.
In a letter to Obama last Wednesday, the 27 senators said the United States has â€œlargely metâ€ its original goals for its military operations in the country â€” removing the Taliban government, pursuing the planners of the September 11 attacks and killing or capturing several top al-Qaida leaders, including Osama bin Laden on May 2.
â€œFrom the initial authorization of military force through your most recent State of the Union speech, combating al-Qaida has always been the rationale for our military presence in Afghanistan,â€ they wrote. â€œGiven our successes, it is the right moment to initiate a sizable and sustained reduction in forces, with the goal of steadily redeploying all regular combat troops.â€
About 100,000 Americans troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan for the war, which is in its 10th year. Obama sent an additional 30,000 troops to the country in 2009, saying at the time that some of those troops would begin coming home in July 2011.
Most of the letterâ€™s signers were Democratic senators, including Minnesotaâ€™s Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar. But Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also called on Obama to begin a substantial drawdown this summer.
In the letter, lawmakers cited CIA Director Leon Panettaâ€™s assessment last June that fewer than 100 al-Qaida members remained in the country and said the U.S. should transfer responsibility for the countryâ€™s development back to the Afghan people rather than continue to be â€œembroiled in ancient local and regional conflicts.â€
â€œMr. President, according to our own intelligence officials, al-Qaida no longer has a large presence in Afghanistan, and, as the strike against bin Laden demonstrated, we have the capacity to confront our terrorist enemies with a dramatically smaller footprint,â€ they wrote.
â€œThe costs of prolonging the war far outweigh the benefits. It is time for the United States to shift course in Afghanistan.â€