Senate: Get forces out, end war in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON — Reflecting a war-weary nation, the Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday for an accelerated withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan after more than a decade of fighting.
The strong bipartisan vote of 62-33 sends a clear message to President Obama and the military as they engage in high-stakes talks about the pace of drawing down the 66,000 troops there, with a White House announcement expected within weeks.
Although the vote was on a nonbinding amendment to a Defense policy bill, its significance could not be discounted amid the current discussions.
Thirteen Republicans, including Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the top GOP lawmaker on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, backed the measure.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., its chief sponsor, argued that al-Qaida is stronger in other parts of the world and that nation-building in Afghanistan has gone off track. His measure endorsed Obama's timetable to withdraw all combat troops by the end of 2014 but pressed for a quicker pace, without specifying how that would be achieved.
“It is time to end this war, end the longest war in United States history,” Merkley said during Senate debate.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Thursday that the United States will need to keep troops in Afghanistan even after the combat mission ends in 2014 because al-Qaida remains in the country and is trying to strengthen its influence.
Panetta would not say how many American troops he thinks will be needed to conduct that mission, nor did he mention a time period.
The overall defense bill authorizes $631 billion for weapons, ships, aircraft and a 1.7 percent pay raise for military personnel.
The White House has threatened to veto the legislation in its current form, citing limits on the president's authority in handling detainees at the U.S. military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and restrictions on cuts to the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Highway Patrol: 8 dead, 10 injured when Florida van crashes
- JetBlue computer outage causes delays for passengers
- Doctors push end-of-life care talks
- Global warming is slowing down the circulation of the oceans — with potentially dire consequences
- Despite high gas costs, Northeast resistant to pipelines
- Before leak, NSA mulled ending phone program
- Midwest gets as much as 15 inches of snow
- Drownings in Rio Grande spike as enforcement surges
- Sen. Reid follows same old script for Democrats as he endorses Schumer as successor
- Mysteries of dark matter come to light in Science study
- Christie rails against high N.J. estate tax