WASHINGTON, September 23 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today applauded the Obama administration for exploring alternatives to a major troop buildup in Afghanistan.
“My great fear about Afghanistan is that we will get bogged down into a never-ending quagmire there with more and more loss of life and billions more spent,” Sanders said. “We need to be a lot clearer as to what our goals in Afghanistan are, and what our exit strategy will be. I am glad that President Obama is rethinking our options there and looking at alternatives to a major increase in troops. Obviously, we have to be vigilant in the fight against terrorism, but we’ve got to do it in a smart way.”
The White House is said to be weighing whether to shift the focus in Afghanistan by scaling back American forces, beefing up Afghanistan’s own security operation, and sharpening the effort to root out al Qaeda. Vice President Joseph Biden reportedly is among those suggesting that the United States scale back the number of troops on the ground and concentrate on surgical strikes against al Qaeda.
A call by the top U.S. and NATO commander for a significant buildup in the number of combat troops has been met with mounting skepticism in Congress.
“We need a national debate about what our goals are,” Sanders said of the eight-year-old war that already has lasted twice as long as the American involvement in World War II. “I don't think the alternatives are simply to pull out tomorrow, or to put in tens of thousands of more troops.”
Sanders also expressed concern that the Afghan government, already mired in corruption, just conducted a fraud-riddled election.
American forces have been in Afghanistan since 2001. Last month was the deadliest for U.S. forces there since the Taliban-led government was ousted. American forces, which make up the largest contingent of the NATO force in Afghanistan, have suffered the largest share of deaths. More than 800 American troops have died since the war began.