One Year After Escalation, Afghanistan War Still Faltering

This past Sunday, February 13, marked one year since the escalation of the military campaign in Afghanistan. Starting with the assault on Marjah in Helmand Province, the strategy enabled by President Obama's troop increases has continually failed to live up to the promises of its backers. With human and economic costs rising and without reasonable hope of a military victory, it's no wonder Americans want Congress to act decisively this year to bring our troops home. When President Obama announced the troop increase, he assured the American people that the new forces would let commanders "target the insurgency and secure key population centers." Regarding the Marjah District specifically and Afghanistan generally, this assurance has proved to be false. Helmand Province, in which Marjah is located, saw insurgent attacks more than double this year, while across Afghanistan insurgent attacks were up 64 percent compared to last year. According to Pentagon and other reports, the insurgency got smarter and larger over the course of 2010. Clearly, the troop increases failed to "reverse insurgent momentum," Pentagon rhetoric notwithstanding. The economic costs of this failed strategy are huge. Taxpayers in my district alone have paid $1.6 billion for the war so far, enough to send almost 300,000 students to college for a year. The price tag for the war will exceed $445 billion by the end of this year, and unless Congress and the administration act to bring troops home, those costs will only increase. I believe we have to get our national debt and deficits under control, and that's going to be very difficult to do until we close this gaping hole in our national finances. The public understands the need to shut down this war, but the message still hasn't gotten through to some policymakers. This week, Brave New Foundation's Rethink Afghanistan campaign is running the first-ever anti-Afghanistan-War ad on CNN in Washington, D.C., created from comments by everyday Americans who want to see our troops brought home. The ad is representative of the broad consensus of the American people, 72 percent of whom want Congress to act to speed of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan this year. Many of us in Congress understand our constituents' strong desire to end this war, and we're working hard to make it happen. Already this week, we worked to attach language to spending legislation that would put sharp restrictions on use of federal funds for military purposes in Afghanistan. I'm also cosponsoring a bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act, which would require the safe and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops. We cannot afford an endless war in Afghanistan. We need a responsible end to the war so we can focus on getting our economy back on track. Let's bring our troops home -- because it's time. Rep Honda is the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus's Peace and Security Taskforce. Follow Rep Honda on Facebook and Twitter.