The Senate on Thursday voted overwhelmingly for an accelerated withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, after more than a decade of fighting in a war the Obama administration insists must continue beyond the much vaunted 2014 withdrawal date.
In a bipartisan vote, 62 in favor and 33 against, the Senate voted for an amendment to a defense policy bill to withdraw troops at a faster pace than the Obama administration has laid out. But the amendment is non-binding and doesn’t specify what schedule US troops should follow.
So, really, the vote is meaningless in terms of actual policy, reflecting the Senate’s utter refusal to make a stand on anything of significance. However, it does illustrate feelings of war-weariness, albeit in a way that avoids taking responsibility for foreign policy decisions.
The amendment’s chief sponsor, Sen. Jeff Merkley, spoke out against nation-building in Afghanistan, which he said had gone off track. “It is time to end this war, end the longest war in United States history,” he said.
The Obama administration is in talks with the Kabul government to set an agreement that will govern the presence of at least 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan passed the supposed withdrawal date at the end of 2014.
“The goal here is an enduring presence therefore that will direct itself toward three important missions, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told reporters on Thursday.