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Liberals Yet to Roar on Afghan War

Anti-war Democrats have been largely mum on President Barack Obama’s recently unveiled policy for Afghanistan — partly because leading liberals don’t yet know where they stand.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that she and Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) — all co-founders of the Out of Iraq Caucus — are not on the same page about how to respond to Obama’s decision to send another 21,000 troops to Afghanistan as part of his comprehensive strategy for stabilizing the region.

Woolsey, who is also a co-chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus, said the three lawmakers are “individually looking at Afghanistan.” The main reason they haven’t teamed up and issued a statement is because they haven’t had time, she said.

A Lee spokeswoman said Lee hasn’t issued a statement on Afghanistan yet or commented on the record because she is still waiting to put together a joint statement with Woolsey and Waters.

Woolsey said she is “universally opposed to war. Period.”

Asked why there appears to be so little pushback from anti-war lawmakers on Obama’s call for a troop increase, Woolsey replied, “You’ll feel the pushback when we start paying for it.”

By contrast, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), also a co-chairman of the Progressive Caucus, said he isn’t patently opposed to more troops in Afghanistan.

Grijalva said he could back a troop increase in combination with a humanitarian package, an international effort and an exit strategy. His biggest worry, he said, is that the Pentagon will push Obama to funnel even more troops into the region.

Grijalva described “an uneasiness” toward Obama’s strategy among progressive lawmakers.

“We want this administration to succeed,” he said. But some Members feel that “instinctively and politically, we are being pulled in a direction where we don’t want to go.”

Further illustrating the conundrum facing anti-war lawmakers, Lee was the only House Member to vote against funding for the war in Afghanistan while there was near-universal opposition among progressives to all rounds of Iraq War funding.

Progressive leaders have settled on one way to come together in response to Obama’s plan: holding their own series of forums to discuss aspects of Afghanistan policy. The second in the series of six meetings kicks off this afternoon, and it will include talks by a retired colonel as well as a former Clinton administration official.

Grijalva noted that it will be the first forum where Members address Obama’s newly unveiled strategy.

One prominent anti-war lawmaker, who requested anonymity because he was still working out his position on the issue, said he is “very troubled” by Obama’s plan because it leaves the United States in the position of remaking a foreign country.

“That whole exercise in nation-building, I’m not at all sure we’re capable of doing it,” the lawmaker said. “We may be biting off much more than we can chew and doing what we shouldn’t do. There’s ‘mission creep.’ You start doing one thing and you know, it’s there.”

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