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US Congress rejects Afghan withdrawal

world Updated: Mar 12, 2010 00:31 IST
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In a strong bipartisan endorsement of the Obama administration’s policy in Afghanistan, the House of Representatives on Wednesday soundly rejected a call to withdraw American troops by the end of the year.

After a three-hour debate held to allow antiwar Democrats to air their dissent, the House voted 356 to 65 to reject the withdrawal proposal.

Five Republicans joined 60 Democrats in support of pulling out; 189 Democrats and 167 Republicans were opposed.

Although the outcome was never in doubt, debate on the resolution written by Representative Dennis J. Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio, offered a preview of Congressional consideration later this year of the administration’s request for money to pay for operations in Afghanistan. Under the proposal, Kucinich would have invoked the War Powers Act to force withdrawal of American troops within 30 days, or by the end of the year if the president judged that a more rapid departure would be unsafe.

The plan’s supporters contended that the United States was aiding a corrupt government in Afghanistan and siphoning scarce resources for the sake of an unwinnable conflict when there were greater needs at home. But a broad coalition of Democrats and Republicans contended that American troops were making progress in Afghanistan and that an abrupt withdrawal would create an opening for the Taliban to return to power and allow Afghanistan to become a haven for terrorists again.

Others said that the timing of the resolution was inappropriate given the American offensive around Marja in southern Afghanistan and that it sent the wrong message to troops in the field as well as to their families in the United States.

Democratic leaders said it was Congress’s responsibility to allow lawmakers the chance to exchange views on the war because Congress provided the money for operations that have claimed the lives of slightly more than 1,000 American military members.

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