Merkley: It Is Time for a New Direction in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, DC – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today reiterated his call that the President commit to a sizeable and sustained drawdown of troops from Afghanistan.  President Obama is scheduled to speak about the future of that country later tonight.  Early news reports indicate that Obama will call for small decreases in combat troops now, leaving the bulk of the “surge” troops in place through 2012 and roughly 70,000 service members in Afghanistan beyond that. 

“If reports of the President’s speech are correct, we’ll have twice as many combat troops in Afghanistan at the end of his term than we did at the beginning.  We should instead have a path to bring those troops home.

“What we need to hear tonight is a commitment to change the nation-building strategy currently in place.  We went to Afghanistan to accomplish three goals:  to take out al Qaeda terrorist training camps, to remove the terrorist-sheltering Taliban government, and to bring to justice those who attacked us on September 11th.  We’ve largely accomplished those goals. 

“But along the way a fourth goal was added:  an open-ended nation-building effort – at a cost of billions of dollars.  This should not continue to be the primary focus of our national security efforts.

“Instead, it is my hope that the President outlines a plan that provides us with a path to ending our involvement in Afghanistan and a renewed focus on going after terrorists around the globe. 

“Further, we should invest in nation-building here at home, and get the American economy moving again.  After ten years, we’ve accomplished what we originally set out to accomplish in Afghanistan.  It’s time to bring this war to an end.”

Last week, Merkley led a bipartisan coalition of 27 senators in urging Obama to announce a sustained and sizeable drawdown of troops.  A copy of the letter can be seen here.