This was a vote on a resolution outlining the terms for debate on a measure directing the president to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Specifically, the president would be required to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan within 30 days of the measure's enactment. If the President determines that U.S. forces could not be safely withdrawn by that date, he would be required to remove them by December 31, 2010, or an "earlier date that the President determines that they can be safely removed."
U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan began following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Obama administration had previously indicated a drawdown of troops could begin by July 2011. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, however, has said that a withdrawal of U.S. forces could begin sooner, depending on conditions on the ground.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) praised the measure, arguing a debate on U.S. policy in Afghanistan was long overdue: "Last summer, I had the privilege of traveling to Afghanistan and meeting with our brave troops….They deserve to know that we are thinking about them and do not take their lives or their fate for granted. It has been far too long since Congress had a full and open debate on the issue of U.S. policy in Afghanistan….Over 1,000 U.S. servicemen and women have sacrificed their lives in Afghanistan. Over 670 more lives have been lost by our NATO military allies. Thousands more have been wounded, many severely, in ways that will affect the rest of their lives. Suicide and post-traumatic stress among our troops and veterans continue to increase at alarming rates….We have sacrificed too much--in the lives and well-being of our soldiers, in the cost to our economy--to wait another year or 2 or 3 for Congress to do its job. We must continue to ask the hard questions and demand straight answers."
Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) argued that a withdrawal of U.S troops from Afghanistan would lead to chaos: "Although they have far to go, Afghanistan has made demonstrable progress. But if this resolution were to become U.S. policy, all the improvements made by the Afghan people would disappear. Afghans would no longer be given the chance to vote in elections. The Taliban would rule by the edict of terror. It would mean the return of a nightmarish tyranny to Afghanistan. Women would see the rights they have gained disappear as the Taliban once again made women noncitizens and banned young girls, who for the first time are learning to read, from schools. Mr. Speaker, I believe that now is not the time to turn our backs on the Afghan people. It is not the time to counter the mission of our troops, especially when they are engaged in the first major offensive of President Obama's reaffirmed counterinsurgency strategy. Let us send a message to the terrorists that the United States is committed to our mission to prevent the return to power of the Taliban."
The House agreed to the resolution outlining the terms for debate by a vote of 225-195. 220 Democrats and 5 Republicans voted "yea." 167 Republicans and 28 Democrats voted "nay." As a result, the House proceeded to floor debate on a measure directing the president to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan.