The Democratic National Committee is officially giving President Obama a push to accelerate the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The DNC on Saturday adopted a resolution that makes explicit what the administration has left typically opaque.
The resolution adopted Saturday states that "the Democratic Party supports prioritizing job creation and a swift withdrawal of U.S. armed forces and military contractors in Afghanistan which must include a significant and sizable reduction no later than July 2011."
The resolution cites the length of the war (nearly ten years), the cost (more than $100 billion per year), the lack of public support (72 percent want to "speed up the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan") and the argument that the conflict does not require a military solution.
"The passage of my resolution places the Democratic Party squarely on the side of American people who overwhelmingly support a swift withdrawal from Afghanistan, beginning with a significant and sizeable reduction in U.S. troop levels by no later than July of this year," said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who submitted the resolution. Other submitters were DNC Vice Chairs Donna Brazile and Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and DNC Secretary Alice Germond.
The administration, of course, has only said it plans to begin withdrawing forces in July of this year. It has said nothing about the numbers of troops it will begin withdrawing. It has said nothing about the pace of withdrawal. It has said that it hopes to hand over security by 2014, but even that doesn't necessitate that all troops be withdrawn. And as more and more contractors flood into Pakistan, it's also not clear that the war won't be more and more contracted out, still at great taxpayer expense, but without official U.S. troops—which makes the DNC resolution's wording on withdrawal of military contractors all the more telling. The administration hasn't said whether or not it expects still to be spending billions on contractors after 2014.
The president often makes clear that his plans depend on the development of a stable Afghan government. That, of course, remains a chimerical goal, as the current Afghan government continually and blithely thumbs its nose at the president's repeated admonishments about corruption and reform. Which continues:
President Hamid Karzai managed Sunday to avoid the election of a strong opposition politician to the post of speaker of Afghanistan's parliament, after his supporters and critics had wrangled over the position for a month.
The West had hoped that the new parliament could provide a vital check on Karzai, with the Afghan leader increasingly distanced from his international backers, who regard him as power-grabbing and unpredictable.
Karzai had feared that the West would push parliament to impeach him, according to several politicians who know the Afghan president well, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. The speaker position would be key to any such move. Western officials often blame many of the failures of the mission in Afghanistan on Karzai.
A new report blasts the U.S. government for wasting tens of billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan by relying too much on contractors and doing too little to monitor their performance.
The interim report from the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan points out that contractors in the war zones sometimes have exceeded the number of military personnel. Numbering 200,000, contractors now roughly match the military force.
"Misspent dollars run into the tens of billions," the report said. The 64-page report was released Thursday and will be followed up next week with a hearing on how to improve contractor accountability.
This hasn't prevented the administration from tripling the number of private security contractors operating in Afghanistan since June of 2009. All to no avail. Another new report suggests that this has been one of the deadliest months for Afghan civilians killed by NATO airstrikes. Oops. Afghan civilians continue to suffer for nothing. But at least someone, channeling a legendary wise man, is making sense:
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warned Friday that the U.S. should avoid future land wars like those it has fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, but should not forget the difficult lessons it has learned from those conflicts.
"In my opinion, any future Defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should 'have his head examined,' as General MacArthur so delicately put it," Gates said in a speech to cadets at West Point.
Perhaps someone should ask Donald Rumsfeld about that.