“America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home,” President Obama said in his nationwide address on Wednesday, as he announced a plan to withdraw our forces from Afghanistan “at a steady pace” between now and 2014.
In his speech, the president set the right direction and tone, but not the right level of urgency. The schedule he laid out means there will still be 68,000 troops fighting the longest war this nation has ever fought in the fall of 2012. The “steady pace” of withdrawal that will follow happens conditionally, “as Afghan Security forces move into the lead.”
But, as our co-director Robert L. Borosage says in this statement, “We went into Afghanistan to track down those who launched the 9/11 attacks on America. With Osama bin Laden dead, and al Qaeda smashed, that mission has been accomplished. … It is time to declare mission accomplished in Afghanistan and bring our soldiers, our resources and our attention home.”
Obama deserves credit for not following the advice of Gen. David A. Petraeus, who strongly argued for only withdrawing 10,000 troops through the winter rather than the 33,000-troop withdrawal that Obama announced. But the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan proves what progressive leaders have been saying for years: that eradicating the al Qaeda terrorist threat did not require billions of dollars spent sending hundreds of thousands of troops on a mission that killed thousands of Afghan civilians as well as more than 1,600 American soldiers. (Our fact sheet offers details and perspective on the cost.) Solid intelligence, a skilled strike force and patience did far more to break the back of al Qaeda than the incredible loss of human lives and money.
Meanwhile, President Obama could have told a sobering tale of nation-building needs here in this country. A National Priorities Project article earlier this week matched how much of the federal tax paid by residents of some major cities in the United States is being spent on Afghanistan with some of the fiscal conditions being faced by these same cities.
- Boston — Lost $251 million in Fiscal Year 2011 to Afghanistan (its property tax revenue dropped $456 million this past year)
- Philadelphia – Lost $440.6 to Afghanistan (where a high school principal retired early due to budget shortfalls to save the jobs of 2 teachers)
- Providence, R.I. – Lost $51.6 million to Afghanistan (it just recently laid off 78 of its 468 police)
- Lansing, Mich. – Lost $30.3 million to Afghanistan (it may have to lay off 88 police and firefighters by month’s end)
- Vallejo, Calif. – Lost $56.1 million to Afghanistan (which recently declared Chapter 9 Municipal Bankruptcy)
- Chicago – Lost $1.3 billion to Afghanistan (the city is currently facing a $700 million budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year)
It is no wonder that the U.S. Conference of Mayors this week passed a resolution that “calls on the President and U.S. Congress to end the wars as soon as strategically possible and bring these war dollars home to meet vital human needs, promote job creation, rebuild our infrastructure, aid municipal and state governments, and develop a new economy based upon renewable, sustainable energy and reduce the federal debt.”
Responding to President Obama’s speech, Conference of Mayors President and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a statement, “We urge Congress to honor our soldiers by putting ‘boots on the ground’ in cities across the country to create jobs for our men and women in uniform to come home to. Drawing down troop levels is step one. Increasing employment levels is step two. We need to use the billions of dollars we are currently spending in Afghanistan to rebuild our domestic economy.”
Earlier this month the Campaign for America’s Future joined with MoveOn.Org, CREDO, Brave New Foundation, WinWithoutWar.org, and USACTION and sent the signatures of 250,000 people to the White House encouraging a swift drawdown of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.
If your signature is not among those 250,000, now is the time to add it. Sign the petition that calls for President Obama “to end our military involvement in Afghanistan as fast as possible, and use the savings to restore the American economy.” Thank him for moving in the right direction, and prod him to move with urgency. Hold him to his own words: “Let us responsibly end these wars, and reclaim the American Dream that is at the center of our story.”
Here is Borosage’s full statement:
We went into Afghanistan to track down those who launched the 9/11 attacks on America. With Osama bin Laden dead, and Al Qaeda smashed, that mission has been accomplished. Meanwhile, we face a fundamental security challenge here at home in rebuilding America.
We have spent $450 billion on the war in Afghanistan since 2001. What was initially a hunt for the perpetrators of 9/11 has turned into the nation’s longest war, with the thankless task of nation-building in Afghanistan, while bolstering a regime too corrupt to stand on its own.
We need to remain vigilant against terrorists who still seek to do us harm. Aggressive global international intelligence, police, and Special Forces activity are still required.
But it is time to end the effort to prop up the corrupt and incompetent Karzai regime in Afghanistan, led by someone who continually threatens to join the other side.
We should not continue spending over $10 billion a month and sacrificing lives in what has become a quagmire with no remaining clear objective. Instead, we bring the troops home with dispatch, and invest the money here at home, revitalizing our infrastructure, generating clean energy and educating our kids. Also, it’s important that the troops that do come home have the opportunity to find meaningful work here at home. They will need the support of the American people to re-integrate to our economy and to life back home.
It is time to declare mission accomplished in Afghanistan and bring our soldiers, our resources and our attention home.
Please join us in sending the message to the White House and to the leaders in Congress. It is time to declare victory and come home.