House GOP, Dems push to get US out of Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AP) — Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, it’s time to end the war in Afghanistan and bring U.S. troops home, several House Republicans and Democrats demanded on Wednesday.

President Barack Obama will begin drawing down some of the 100,000 troops in Afghanistan in July, with all combat forces due out by 2014. But that timetable is unacceptable to a growing number of war-weary lawmakers, who argue that the death of the al-Qaida leader is an opportunity for the United States to recalibrate its strategy.

“The successful mission that located and killed Osama bin Laden has raised many questions about the effectiveness of America’s strategy to combat terrorism through a now 10-year-old nation-building effort in a deeply corrupt Afghanistan, especially in light of the serious fiscal challenges we face at home,” Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Peter Welch, D-Vt., wrote in a letter to colleagues on Wednesday.

They said it would be more effective to use “a targeted, worldwide counter-terrorism strategy similar to the intelligence and special operations mission that located and killed bin Laden in Pakistan earlier this month.”

Chaffetz and Welch planned to offer an amendment to the defense bill for withdrawing ground troops from Afghanistan. A group of eight Republicans and Democrats were pushing another measure to accelerate the transition from U.S. to Afghan control of operations.

While the amendments were unlikely to pass, the votes expected Wednesday were certain to provide a measure of the congressional opposition to the war — numbers that won’t go unnoticed at the Pentagon and White House.

For a second day, the House debated the broad, $690 billion defense blueprint that would provide a 1.6 percent increase in military pay, fund an array of aircraft, ships and submarines, slightly increase health care fees for working-age retirees and meet the Pentagon’s request for $119 billion to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Still fuming over Obama’s level of consultation with lawmakers before launching air strikes against Libya in March, the House adopted an amendment that says nothing in the bill could be construed as Congress authorizing the military operation in Libya.

“The president must firmly come to this Congress to seek authorization,” said Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., sponsor of the amendment.

Obama told Congress last week that he would welcome a resolution backing the limited U.S. involvement in the NATO-led military campaign. The legal deadline for the president to seek full-blown congressional authorization expired last Friday.

By voice vote, the House adopted an amendment that would extend whistleblower protection to members of the military who speak up about “ideologically based threats” by fellow service members that they believe could undermine U.S. security.

House Republican leaders hope to finish the defense bill on Thursday, but first must plow through 152 amendments, several to eliminate disputed items in the bill that have drawn the threat of a presidential veto.

Provisions in the bill would limit Obama’s authority to transfer terrorist suspects from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to foreign countries. The bill also bars transfer of detainees to facilities in the United States, even for trial.

The administration said the bill’s provision “is a dangerous and unprecedented challenge to critical executive branch authority to determine when and where to prosecute detainees, based on the facts and the circumstances of each case and our national security interests.”

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