So, if we got the guy in Pakistan no less, why are 100,000 American troops, at billions of dollars a year, where we fund both sides of the war as they hijack a third of the trucks that come in while we bribe them for the other two-thirds, why is that still going on in Afghanistan? With Osama bin Laden dead, pressure is mounting on the President to end the Afghan war and to get our troops and our tax dollars out.
In the decade since September 11th, 1,570 U.S. troops have been killed in that war, with nearly $1.3 trillion spent on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, an additional 4,500 troops killed in Iraq. Right now, the White House insists that while the death of bin Laden is a big victory, it is not a reason to change the President’s current exit plan.
Joining us now on the hotline is Democratic Congresswoman Chellie Pingree from Maine. She is starting an online petition, commending President Obama for bringing Osama bin Laden to justice, to ask for an accelerated withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in July, as she is promising to bring the petition’s signatures to the President.
Congresswoman in an ideal scenario, what exactly would you have the President do?
Well, the President made two commitments to us. One was to bring back Osama bin Laden and the other one was to commit to an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan starting in July. I think, you know, we have all agreed, our troops did an amazing job, our intelligence was good, the president was a great leader in that. And we need to support him in his original idea of the acclerated withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan.
I sit on the Armed Services Committee. I will be honest with you, I opposed the war from the start. We listened to one general after another telling us next year it is going to be better, next year we will have this country rebuilt and we will be there. Well, it has been over ten years, you talked about the loss of lives, $7 billion a month, that $10 million an hour at a time when our country can’t afford the loss of lives and the blow to our economy, and it’s not working. The president needs to hear from members of congress, and supporters around the country, hey, we will be with you if you start withdrawing our troops.
At the same time you can hear the president at his west Point speech make it clear that his goals in the Middle East were less about capturing bin Laden than the following characterization. Please listen to the following:
Our overarching goal remains the same, to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.
At the end of the day, is it necessary to spend that kind of money to bankrupt our own nation, obviously, if the process, as long as we can pull this off?
Look, he did an amazing job with bin Laden: it was a targeted approach, we found where he was, we went in and got them. And let’s remind ourselves, it was in Pakistan. We have been told that there are less than 100 al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is where we have a major war going on.
You know, there are pockets of terrorism around the world. i support president in keeping us safe from terrorism, but I don’t think the war in Afghanistan, with the enormous nation building that is going on there, at a time when we could use some of those roads and schools here in our own districts, back in our own country. I think it’s not being successful and it’s okay to say, we had a great victory, now let’s change our tactics.
Matt Miller, do you agree with that and ultimately is it much easier just to keep blowing the money and shouting booyah and shooting things?
I hope not. I hope that the fact that the president pulled this off with the special forces with bin Laden will embolden him to take a more — a tougher stance with his own military brass come July because the ultimate dynamics as we understand them thus far is that the military is only going to pull out as few people as possible to meet some minimal political threshold that let’s Obama say that he is beginning to withdraw. The real battle is going to be how many of the 100,000 are you going to start to bring home. We got bin Laden and if there are only 100 al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, as we look at the big picture and think we can’t build a nation in Afghanistan. I hope the Congresswoman’s efforts really bear fruit.
Mark Tapscott, do you agree with that? In other words, do you view the combination of the discovery of the Pakistani compound, obviously Pakistan, somebody in Pakistan was knowingly harboring Osama bin Laden, whether it was a person that sold him the cement or whether it was the people running that military academy and is there a relevancy to the compulsion to withdraw from Afghanistan?
Well, you know, I think there’s a lot of fuzzy thinking on these things and it is an obvious suggestion to say, well, now that we have gotten bin Laden we can get out of Afghanistan and that may well be true. But my question for theCongresswoman as well as I was trying to pose to the professor in the earlier segment, if you stipulate that we do have vital interests at all points around this globe, we have to have some kind of a coherent, consistent strategy for defending those vital interests. And that’s what I don’t hear from folks now who are saying, well, let’s just get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible.
What are we going do instead of that? We still have vital vital interests to defend. We still are going to need a strong military, and we still are going to have to have a coherent strategy for defending this country.
Ultimately isn’t that the necessary step between now and whatever happens next, Jonathan Capehart, going back to how we started the show today, how does the president effectively utilize this bump? Is there not an opportunity now to reframe American foreign policy for the 21st century period while he has this bin Laden bump?
Sure, there’s an opportunity here, and whether he will take it, we will find that out in the next few weeks. One of the things that hasn’t come up here in this conversation is–and you are sort of alluding to it, why is it that if we got bin Laden in Pakistan, why do we have so many troops in Afghanistan–and that’s been the issue all along. We are in Afghanistan because we are afraid of a failed state on the border of Pakistan. We are more worried about a failed state on the border of a — of another country with nuclear weapons. And I think we can’t talk about pulling out of Afghanistan without talking about what that means to Pakistan and what that means to American interests in Pakistan.
Yeah. I agree with that. And that debate will clearly persist for days and weeks, as it should here, guys. Thank you so much for your megapanelification this afternoon. On remote, Jonathan Capehart, Mark Tapscott, and Matt Miller.