FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Will a Congressional Rebellion Bring the Afghan War to an End?

by MARK WEISBROT

Imagine the United States were spending an amount that exceeded 60 percent of its national income on the military and police. (For comparison, the U.S. Department of Defense budget – bloated as it is – is about 5 percent of GDP; and spending on police is less than 1 percent of GDP.) Of course the United States would never reach these levels of spending, but it’s worth thinking about because any population in this situation would be looking for a way out of the horrific civil conflict that got them there. This would no doubt be true even if foreigners were fronting the money.

And so it is true for the people of Afghanistan, where spending for the army and police is programmed for $11.6 billion (61 percent of projected GDP) in 2011. If that doesn’t fit the definition of “unsustainable,” it’s not clear what would.

Not surprisingly, the Afghan people are looking for a way out. They want negotiations to end the conflict. But the United States says no. The U.S. and its NATO allies are preparing for a major military offensive, perhaps the biggest of the war so far, in the southern province of Kandahar.

A poll sponsored by the U.S. Army showed that 94 percent of Kandahar residents support negotiating with the Taliban, rather than military confrontation.

The New York Times reports this week that:

“in some parts of the country, American and NATO convoys are already considered by Afghans to be as dangerous a threat as Taliban checkpoints and roadside bombs, raising questions about whether the damage” to the perception of U.S. forces caused by the continued U.S. killings of Afghan civilians “can be reversed to any real degree.

“ ‘People hate the international forces,’ said Bakhtialy, a tribal elder in Kandahar . . . ‘Their presence at the moment is too risky for ordinary people. They are killing people, and they don’t let people travel on the road.’”

A series of high-profile atrocities by U.S. and NATO forces that have surfaced recently has made matters worse. Three weeks ago NATO admitted that U.S. Special Operations forces had killed five civilians, including three women, two of them pregnant. NATO had previously engaged in a cover-up, claiming that Special Operations forces had “found the bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged and killed.”

Meanwhile in the United States, a rebellion is growing in Congress against the war. Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, House Democrat Jim McGovern from Massachusetts, and House Republican Walter Jones from North Carolina have introduced legislation that would require President Obama to establish a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The bill has quickly picked up 29 co-sponsors, and could reach 100 within the next few weeks.

How does this get us out of Afghanistan? My colleague Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy explains:

“A signal like this is likely to have dramatic political effects in Afghanistan, just as these things had dramatic political effects in Iraq. In 2007, Congress never succeeded legislatively in writing a military withdrawal timetable into U.S. law. But the fact that the majority of the House and Senate went on the record in favor of a timetable had dramatic effects in Iraq. It put pressure on the Bush Administration to compromise its objectives, to start serious negotiations with people it had previously been trying to kill.”

The result was a signed agreement between the U.S. and Iraq for a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops.

That is how the Afghan war will end. The pressure will build until President Obama and his military have no choice but to begin the U.S. exit from Afghanistan.

The majority of Americans are against the war, and every week thousands of Americans continue to put pressure on their representatives in Congress, who can also read the polls in an election year. The war has dragged on long after the public turned against it, and long after Washington abandoned any pretense of a coherent story to justify it – a result of our limited, corrupted form of democracy. But this Congressional rebellion is the beginning of the end of this war.

MARK WEISBROT is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: the Phony Crisis.

This article was originally published in The Guardian.

 

WORDS THAT STICK

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of  Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
L. Ali Khan
I’m a Human and I’m a Cartoon
May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
Nozomi Hayase
Trump and the Resurgence of Colonial Racism
Rev. William Alberts
The Normalizing of Authoritarianism in America
Frank Stricker
Getting Full Employment: the Fake Way and the Right Way 
Jamie Davidson
Red Terror: Anti-Corbynism and Double Standards
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles
Robert Jensen
Beyond Liberal Pieties: the Radical Challenge for Journalism
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His Crisis at Home
Angie Beeman
Gig Economy or Odd Jobs: What May Seem Trendy to Privileged City Dwellers and Suburbanites is as Old as Poverty
Colin Todhunter
The Public Or The Agrochemical Industry: Who Does The European Chemicals Agency Serve?
Jerrod A. Laber
Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy
Michael J. Sainato
Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It
Clancy Sigal
I’m a Trump Guy, So What?
Gerry Condon
In Defense of Tulsi Gabbard
Weekend Edition
May 19, 2017
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Getting Assange: the Untold Story
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Secret Sharer
Charles Pierson
Trump’s First Hundred Days of War Crimes
Paul Street
How Russia Became “Our Adversary” Again
Andrew Levine
Legitimation Crises
Mike Whitney
Seth Rich, Craig Murray and the Sinister Stewards of the National Security State 
Robert Hunziker
Early-Stage Antarctica Death Rattle Sparks NY Times Journalists Trip
Ken Levy
Why – How – Do They Still Love Trump?
Bruce E. Levine
“Hegemony How-To”: Rethinking Activism and Embracing Power
Robert Fisk
The Real Aim of Trump’s Trip to Saudi Arabia
Christiane Saliba
Slavery Now: Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia
Chris Gilbert
The Chávez Hypothesis: Vicissitudes of a Strategic Project
Howard Lisnoff
Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain
Brian Cloughley
Propaganda Feeds Fear and Loathing
Stephen Cooper
Is Alabama Hiding Evidence It Tortured Two of Its Citizens?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail