Foreign Policy Blogs

No 'time limits'….for now

The US House of Representatives passed a $94.2 billion dollar funding bill for Afghanistan yesterday, but cracks may be appearing in overall US support of the war effort there. The bill passed 368 to 60, with 51 Democrats and 9 Republicans voting against providing more funds for a conflict that new President Barack Obama has emphasized and hopefully energized.

About a month ago, I wrote a column discussing how recent polling showed American support for Afghanistan still strong, but weakening, especially on the American Left. This latest funding bill showcases that this drift may be real and a great challenge to the Obama administration’s hopes of a sustained commitment. While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emphasized that the bill had no ‘time limits’ on a US presence in the country, and media outlets like the New York Times are still arguing that it is a ‘must-win‘ war, and other liberal groups such as remaining largely silent, there are influential people who either want a clear exit strategy or just plain want US troops sent home.

ghahri20090507025938734I mean Pelosi herself had to emphasize that there were no time limits instead of just passing the bill. House Representative David Obey, the chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, told reporters on Monday that he would give President Barack Obama ‘a year’ to succeed in Afghanistan. I think Obama has mentioned the word ‘decade’ in terms of this struggles length more than he has 1 year. Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts stated his concern and compared the Afghan conflict to the one in Iraq:

“When George Bush was president, I was on this floor saying we need an exit strategy. The same applies with Afghanistan. I’m tired of wars with no deadlines, no exits and no ends.”

In addition, the Out of Iraq Caucus is considering setting up a similar group for Afghanistan. Caucus member Rep. Raul M. Grijalva has argued that the Out of Iraq Caucus and other progressive Congress groups should put more attention on Obama’s Afghanistan plan:

“I think we see that we have the same problems in Afghanistan that we once had in Iraq: no end, no exit strategy, no clear end product of our presence there. There’s going to be a meeting to organize that concept of what the Out of Iraq is going to do.”

Former Bush administration official Peter Feaver compares Obama’s Afghanistan clock with Bush’s Iraq clock, in terms of public and congressional support. Though Feaver rightly acknowledges that the Afghan clock is much slower than the Iraq one has been, he correctly notes that the clock is indeed running. As can be seen from the voices up above, some people’s clocks are running faster than others.