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This week in war

by Chris Hinyub, published

A bipartisan group of six representatives, led by presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-Texas), released a letter on Thursday calling on President Obama and Congress to scale back military commitments abroad and reduce war spending.


Signed by Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), John Campbell (R-CA), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Walter Jones (R-NC) and Gwen Moore (D-WI), along with Paul, the main subject of the letter is deficit reduction.


     “This requires a reevaluation of the mismatch between our current national security structure and overseas commitments, and the genuine security needs of the American People,” the letter says. It goes on to question why:


     “more than 21 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and 18 years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, our military planning and appropriations process go on largely as it has since the 1950s.”


The letter reads in part:


     “The role of America as the worldwide first responder was a necessary one sixty years ago. Today, our allies can – and should – bear the primary burden of defending their own nations and interests... Achieving the consequential deficit reduction necessary to ensure our nation’s fiscal health requires bold thinking and action. We therefore call on those with major responsibilities in the budgeting area to begin an immediate reexamination of our self-imposed worldwide military commitments, and to take subsequent action to ensure we have a defense force that is both affordable and necessary to meet our legitimate security needs.”


The six members are now circulating the letter in hopes of finding more co-signers before it is sent to the President and Congressional leaders in both houses.


In related news, Senate Foreign Relations Committee members on Wednesday challenged president Obama's approach to the occupation of Afghanistan citing research from a two-year study on U.S. aid programs to the country. The report found that most of the $19 billion in U.S. aid since 2001 went to fund programs with short-term results such as paying locals to repair their own infrastructure in order to win popular support for ally presence. This system of subsidization has built what the report calls a “war economy” that is prone to collapse if foreign forces vacate.


The committee used the confirmation hearing of diplomat Ryan Crocker – Obama's nominee to be the new U.S. ambassador to Kabul – to vent their constituent's frustration over a nearly decade-long occupation of a nation that has only stepped up its resistance efforts. Committee members questioned whether or not 100,000 soldiers are really needed to secure Afghanistan. As of yet, military officials have not submitted a plan to initiate President Obama's promised summer drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.


     "While the United States has genuine national security interests in Afghanistan, our current commitment in troops and in dollars is neither proportional to our interest nor sustainable," said committee chairman, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass). The Senator suggested that resources be reallocated to Pakistan where supposed al Qaeda members have safe haven.


The Senate also held a hearing this week to confirm Leon Panetta's nomination as Secretary of Defense. The outgoing CIA director told lawmakers that Iraq was preparing to request that the US continue its occupation past the 2011 deadline for the Status of Forces Agreement. Many officials have suggested that if Iraq were to submit a request, which Panetta insists is forthcoming, the size of the contingent that would remain would be somewhat smaller than the current level of 47,000 troops. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates indicated that these troops could remain for many years if requested to by the Iraqi government. Panetta also alleged that as many as 1,000 al Qaeda agents are still operating within Iraq.

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