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How You Can Demand an Afghanistan Exit Strategy

A vote on legislation demanding a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan could could come up in the next two weeks. Let Congress know you support the bill.

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He suggested that people ask their representatives for a written response to "force them to think about what you discuss with them and see whether you can influence their position."

For McGovern, the reasons we need to withdraw from Afghanistan are clear. And it begins with the mission itself.

"This mission -- whatever it is -- is not clear," he said. "And I don't think by any measure it is something that we should be investing so much in terms of human life and American taxpayer dollars."

He noted that the war began as a response to those responsible for 9-11, but those perpetrators are no longer there. Al Qaeda, too, is establishing itself in other parts of the world like Yemen, not in Afghanistan. In fact, focusing so many resources on Afghanistan hinders our ability to fight Al Qaeda.

"Now we're engaged in this prolonged nation-building -- get rid of the Taliban mission -- that is not clearly defined, and quite frankly, is not working," he said. "If you go to war, you should have a clearly defined mission -- a beginning, middle, transition period, and an end. I don't know what that is here. I can't tell you what success in Afghanistan means. I don't think the Administration can either."

McGovern says one of the biggest obstacles advocates for this bill face is the "fear" legislators have that they will be vulnerable to the charge that they are "soft" on terrorism. But he argues that this war isn't making the country safer.

 "I believe it's having the opposite effect," he said. "We're draining our Treasury. We're putting our young men and women in uniform's lives at risk defending a corrupt leader. With each civilian casualty, more and more resentment grows towards the American forces and the Allied Forces that are there."

The Congressman spoke of his August visit to Afghanistan and the "widespread outrage" among U.S. government representatives on the ground who were "horrified over the way Karzai conducted the election."

"But that outrage did not translate to our policy makers here in Washington," he said. "Basically we've given Karzai a pass. Supporting corrupt, incompetent governments -- that's not the way U.S. policy should proceed. I've seen this movie before -- and you have too -- it doesn't have a happy ending."

But McGovern is also quick to point out that he isn't advocating that the U.S. abandon Afghanistan, "nor should anybody." He said some of most successful development in Afghanistan has occurred without a significant military footprint.

"Maybe we should learn from that," he said. "The cost of one American soldier for one year in Afghanistan is equal to the cost of building thirty schools in Afghanistan. If you want to win the hearts and minds I think thirty schools is a pretty big deal. Helping the people of Afghanistan -- in a way that makes a real difference to them -- is a fraction of the cost of what we're doing right now."

And that cost of continuing this war isn't lost on McGovern or other advocates of this legislation. (In fact, if this legislation shortens the war in Afghanistan by a year, that would pay the two-year cost of the Local Jobs for America Act.

"The hundreds of billions of dollars we spend over there on war. ... All that -- mostly borrowed money -- means that we're not investing at home. It means our roads and our bridges aren't being fixed. It means our schools aren't being fixed. It means we're not investing in healthcare, and a whole range of other things that we need to do to get our economy back on track," he said. "When we talk about national security, that definition needs to be enhanced to include jobs, and the quality of education that we offer our people, and healthcare, and infrastructure, and roads and bridges, and the purity of our environment. All those things are a part of our national security."