December 2, 2009

Rep. Maxine Waters articulates what a great deal of progressives are thinking about this troop escalation in Afghanistan. It's too much with no end date and we need to be getting out of that country, not escalating.

OLBERMANN: The President's new strategy for Afghanistan - are you for it or are you against it?

WATERS: Well, first of all I'm terribly saddened. After having listened to the speech, I felt bad for this young, bright, articulate President who wants to do the right thing, but made commitments during his campaign that he was going into Afghanistan, he was going to get Osama bin Laden, and now he's backed against the wall with a strategy that I think has no end. It doesn't really resonate for me.

I'm saddened because 30,000 new troops are going to go into Afghanistan; I guess they're going to be fighting in Pakistan and Afghanistan, al Qaeda and Taliban and where does it end? And what do we do? We have to kill all of the Taliban and we're going to try and transition that government into a democracy? I don't get it. It doesn't work for me.

OLBERMANN: Was the setting of a beginning of the end, essentially, in saying that the troop draw-down will begin by July 2011 and will be fully under way no later than January 2012. Was that not sufficient in terms of an end date, or are you suspicious that at some point the military will have to talk him out of it or try to talk him out of that end date?

WATERS: Well, for me it sounded as if we were going to begin training the Afghanistan troops in 2011. I did not hear that we were going to have them all trained and we would be able to get out. I think that he meant that to be the begin of a withdrawal, but of course we don't know when. There's no end date to it.

OLBERMANN: Then if he had said or if someone from the administration says in the next few days look, this is the time frame. The withdrawal begins ready or not, for want of a better phrase, July 2011, August 2011, somewhere in there, will some of your concerns be mollified at that point or is this larger than that?

WATERS: Well, some. I like the idea that we would get involved in a real withdrawal and we would employ diplomacy and that we would engage the forty three other nations that he pointed to to help us do all of this but I'm not convinced.

OLBERMANN: Have you been able to speak with any of your colleagues about this, either since the speech or before? Do you have a sense of this and do you have a sense of whether you and those who think like you are going to be grudgingly supportive of this President or will you attempt to stop what he wants to do?

WATERS: Yes, I did have an opportunity to speak with my colleague Barbara Lee who is the head of the Black Caucus, and who is very prominent in the Progressive Caucus and we both agreed that we cannot support the President in this continuing effort, and we will not support it.

OLBERMANN: So what happens? We've heard from several sources that this will be budgeted through ordinary means. There will be no special bits of legislation the way President Bush handled Iraq. If these regular requests for funding come through you, you will have to vote against them?

WATERS: Yes, I would have to vote against it. As a matter of fact, the President did say that his requests would be transparent and that it would be shown in the budget. People are talking about a war tax. They're talking about all kinds of things. But for me, I cannot support this expansion. I cannot support a budget that will cost us one million dollars per year for every soldier that we send there. It's too much. And we're losing a lot of young lives and we have a domestic agenda that is unmet; a big deficit. I want to focus more on the domestic agenda. I want to wind out of Afghanistan with some help for rebuilding that infrastructure and being of assistance to the people, but I did not hear that articulated quite that way.

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