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Yarmuth, Colleagues Urge "Sizable" U.S. Troop Withdrawal

Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville is among a bi-partisan group of House lawmakers who signed a letter to President Obama urging him to begin a “significant and sizable” reduction in U.S. forces in Afganistan starting next month.The president will detail his troop drawdown plan in an address to the nation tonight. Defense officials have said that Mr. Obama plans to call for an initial withdrawal of 5,000 troops, followed by 5,000 more by the end of the year.The U.S. currently has about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, including 33,000 added in a surge ordered by the president in 2009.The letter, signed by Yarmuth and at least ten other House lawmakers, says Al Qaida’s presence in Afghanistan has dwindled and some of the billions of dollars spent each month on that war should be used to rebuild the U.S. economy.The president’s address begins at 8:00pm Eastern time; it will aired live on WFPL.Here's the letter sent to President Obama:Bipartisan Letter Calling for Significant and Sizable Drawdown in AfghanistanDear Mr. President,We urge a significant and sizable reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan beginning July 2011. With Osama bin Laden killed and Al Qaeda largely driven from Afghanistan, it is time to accelerate the transfer of security responsibilities to the Government of Afghanistan and to reduce the U.S. military footprint there.In the wake of the horrific September 11th attacks, the U.S. resolved to eliminate terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and to bring those who would harm innocent civilians to justice. Our troops have fought bravely, and now fewer than 100 Al Qaeda operatives are estimated to remain in Afghanistan. The recent killing of Osama bin Laden, for which you and members of our military and intelligence communities should be commended, is the capstone of that initial mission.International terrorist networks remain a grave threat to the United States, as Al Qaeda affiliates now have a significant presence in countries like Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. But maintaining anywhere near 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan is not an effective means of combating a global and decentralized enemy.Our economic vitality is a crucial component of our national security. The nearly decade-long war in Afghanistan drains our resources, even as we face serious economic challenges at home. To date, we have spent nearly half a trillion dollars on the Afghan war, and that price tag increases by $10 billion every month we remain. When we calculate the long-term costs of this war, including servicing our debt and caring for our veterans, the dollar figures are almost inconceivable. These funds are needed for rebuilding our own economy, reducing the deficit and generating jobs for Americans.Ultimately, this war will end not on the battlefield but through political negotiations. As we scale down our military operations in Afghanistan we need to continue our diplomatic efforts, pushing for a negotiated settlement that includes the Government of Afghanistan and other parties interested in establishing peace and stability.The American public is weary of a war with no end in sight, and we call upon you to bring the longest war in our nation's history to a close. Beginning in July of this year, we urge a swift, significant and sizable drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.Sincerely,John GaramendiJustin AmashBarbara LeeWalter JonesJames P. McGovernTimothy JohnsonPeter WelchRon PaulGeorge MillerJohn DuncanLouise SlaughterTim BishopEarl BlumenauerBruce BraleyMichael CapuanoJudy ChuDavid CicillineHansen ClarkeYvette ClarkeSteve CohenJohn ConyersJerry CostelloPeter DeFazioRosa DeLauroKeith EllisonSam FarrBob FilnerBarney FrankMarcia FudgeRaul GrijalvaLuis GutiérrezMaurice HincheyMike HondaJesse Jackson, Jr.Dennis KucinichDave LoebsackBen LujanCarolyn MaloneyMike MichaudJim MoranChris MurphyJerrold NadlerJohn OlverDonald PayneChellie PingreeJared PolisCharlie RangelLaura RichardsonKurt SchraderJosé SerranoAlbio SiresPete StarkEdolphus TownsNiki TsongasLynn WoolseyJohn Yarmuth

Rick Howlett is host of WFPL's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." Email Rick at rhowlett@lpm.org.