Afghanistan After Bin Laden: Some Lawmakers Want the War to End

Some Democrats are calling for a larger than planned troop withdrawal this summer

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With Osama bin Laden dead, does that mean we've won the war in Afghanistan and can pack up our things and go home? Sen. Lindsey Graham worries that in the wake of the Pakistan raid, we'll see "an unholy alliance of right and left on leaving Afghanistan," Politico's Jake Sherman and Manu Raju report. And he's right: Some lawmakers are already calling on President Obama to end the three Mideast wars. Not because the Afghan war is lost, as some have argued, but now, opponents say, because we've finally won.

Rep. Barney Frank told Think Progress's Faiz Shakir that old arguments against withdrawal are now moot. "People say, well, America can't look like it was driven out with the mission not accomplished. We went there to get Osama bin Laden!"

As Slate's Dave Weigel notes, that as more news about bin Laden trickled in, more Democrats echoed Frank. Among those expressing some desire to rethink our troop levels:

  • Rep. Jerry Nadler: "We ought to stop wasting our troops and our money and our lives and get out."
  • Sen. Carl Levin: Levin promised the size of the summer troop withdrawal would be "robust."
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: Lee says she's "hopeful these developments will help to accelerate an end to the war in Afghanistan and the implementation of a smart security strategy."
  • Rep. Andy Harris: "I think Americans will insist on the folks in power taking another look... We have achieved one of the major goals of having gone to Afghanistan."
  • Rep. Bennie Thompson: "I think with this success of the killing of bin Laden, it is time to give [Afghanistan] additional review."
  • Rep. Walter Jones: "Our reaction to the death of Bin Laden should be that we declare victory. ... I think this changes the whole dynamics of the war on terrorism. Let's go after them. Let's not occupy a country for 10 years for nothing but a waste of lives."
  • Rep. Cliff Stearns: "Most people I talk to say that we need to address our nation's budget deficit, and we are spending a lot of money in Afghanistan. ... Now that bin Laden has been executed, we must go home."

Other lawmakers urged caution or said the fight must go on.

  • House Speaker John Boehner: "This makes our engagement in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan more important not less."
  • Sen. Joe Lieberman: "I've already heard a few calls that we quickly withdraw from Afghanistan because the war is over, because bin Laden is dead... I wish that we could say that but we would repeat a mistake that we made once before when we pulled out of Afghanistan ... after the Soviets did and that invited ultimately the Taliban and al-Qaeda into Afghanistan and from Afghanistan they attacked us on 9/11. "
  • Sen. Pat Toomey: "The other vital important reason for being in Afghanistan was to prevent the Taliban from establishing a safe haven for the al-Qaida network. ... I don't think it fundamentally changes our mission in Afghanistan, just as it doesn't change the fundamental mission of al Qaeda."
  • Rep. Mike Rogers: "We have to be very careful not to find these national security issues that happen either for the positive or the negative to define all the other things that we have to do."

And two Democrats offered eerily similar stay-the-course statements:

  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: "The president has a timetable to begin withdrawal of--out of Afghanistan. He has indicated that he's going to stick with that. I think that's appropriate."
  • Sen. Jack Reed: "The president has a timetable. He's going to stick with that. I think that's appropriate."

But the person whose evolution on troop withdrawal matters most is Obama. The Atlantic's Yochi Dreazen explains that the White House will soon launch a "far-reaching review" of the war to figure out how many soldiers to bring back in July. Top military offers had been confident just two months ago that Obama would pull out only a token number of non-combat troops; however, just before bin Laden's killing, Dreazen reports, they'd shifted their view, expecting as many as two brigades--about 10,000 troops--to be brought home. "With bin Laden now out of the picture, the White House may feel even freer to order a larger drawdown than most in the military would prefer," Dreazen writes.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.