Martin C. Evans

Sen. Gillibrand Says Halt ‘Endless War’ In Afghanistan

In Uncategorized on March 15, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand during a November visit to a U.S. base in Afghanistan

Saying America cannot afford “endless war” in Afghanistan, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand today called on the Obama administration to draft a clear plan that would lead to the withdrawal of U.S. troops by 2014.

“After nearly a decade of war, with still no equal commitment from the Karzai government, and after all the lives we’ve sacrificed and the billions we’ve spent on this war, it’s time to start bringing our troops home,” said Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in a release.

Nearly 100,000 U.S. troops are currently stationed in Afghanistan, including 96 from Long Island and 259 from New York City, according to figures provided by Gillibrand. More area residents will go when members of the New York National Guard’s 69th Infantry Regiment deploy to Afghanistan early next year.

Last November, the freshman senator traveled to Afghanistan with several other U.S. senators, and voiced similar concerns about the country’s slow progress toward stability.

Gillibrand said today she agreed that the troop surge ordered last year by President Obama has helped stabilize parts of Afghanistan, but said the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan “are not taking steps that are critical to the war effort.” Gillibrand said it is urgent that Afghani troops take responsibility for their country’s security given America’s needs to address terrorism threats in other parts of the world, particularly the Saudi peninsula.

Gillibrand’s call for a troop withdrawal came on the same day that the Washington Post published a poll showing that nearly two in three Americans say the war in Afghanistan is no longer worth fighting.

U.S. taxpayers have spent nearly $350 billion in military and aid spending in Afghanistan since 2001, according to Gillibrand. She said Congress is asking for another $124 billion for Afghanistan war spending – or nearly as much as the total New York State budget – for next year alone.

Gillibrand referenced a study that ranked Afghanistan as the world’s second most corrupt nation – far ahead of such regimes as Iran, Libya, Haiti or Zimbabwe – and said Afghanistan’s largest bank, which processes international aid and government salaries, is so rife with fraud that it is on the verge of collapse.

Gillibrand also said the Arabian peninsula is now the most significant source of Al Qaeda operations that could threaten America, and that withdrawing troops from Afghanistan would allow the U.S. to better husband its military assets.

“I am also concerned that the drain on our resources in Afghanistan may deteriorate our flexibility to address other global threats,” Gillibran said in a letter addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Bill Gates.

President Obama has promised to begin drawing down the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by this summer, and to transfer responsibility for security to the Afghan government by 2014. But critics have said that timetable is so flexible as to be relatively meaningless.

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