Bipartisan group of US lawmakers urge Afghan war end
Washington: Two US lawmakers heading a bipartisan group of representatives on Wednesday called for an end to the war in Afghanistan, insisting that the killing of Osama bin Laden made the mission unnecessary.
The al Qaeda leader's death "raised many questions about the effectiveness of America's strategy to combat terrorism”, said Republican Jason Chaffetz and Democrat Peter Welch in a letter to colleagues urging them to back an amendment to a defence bill that would require the withdrawal of US ground troops.
Their amendment would allow only forces directly involved in counterterrorism operations in the country to remain.
In a similar letter sent to President Barack Obama earlier this month, a group of four Democrats and four Republican headed by Chaffetz and Welch said the death of bin Laden in a US commando raid on May 02 would "require us to re-examine our policy of nation building in Afghanistan”.
The lawmakers noted the immense cost of the conflict for US taxpayers: USD 2 billion a week, and USD 386 billion already spent.
They argued that an inefficient nation-building strategy in Afghanistan, where they say the government is "hopelessly corrupt”, should be refocused on a special forces mission to target dispersed and decentralised extremist groups.
In light of the killing of the September 11 mastermind, the group said that the conflict "is no longer the best way to defend America against terror attacks, and we urge you to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan that are not crucial to the immediate national security objective of combating al Qaeda."
They said in the letter that the time "has come to acknowledge that the threat posed by Afghanistan no longer justifies 100,000-plus troops on the ground."
Obama has set July 2011 as the start date for withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan, and the end of 2014 as the time when US and NATO forces must transfer security responsibilities to Afghan forces.
With polls showing that much of the US public is weary of the war, the Obama administration has in recent months played down the prospect of a military solution in Afghanistan and called for a political settlement.
The lawmakers letter to their colleagues comes a day after Senator Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, questioned why the United States was spending some USD 120 billion a year in Afghanistan.
"The question before us is whether Afghanistan is strategically important enough to justify the lives and massive resources that we are spending there, especially given that few terrorists in Afghanistan have global designs or reach," the Indiana lawmaker said.