WASHINGTON Nov 30 The U.S. Senate voted on
Wednesday to require President Barack Obama to devise a plan
for expediting the pullout of U.S. troops from Afghanistan,
signaling growing impatience in Congress.
Obama in June called for about a third of U.S. forces, or
33,000 troops, to leave Afghanistan by the end of next summer.
The remaining 66,000 U.S. troops are to be slowly withdrawn
until a final transition to Afghan security control in 2014.
The Democratic-controlled Senate's vote for accelerating
that drawdown came on an amendment to an annual defense bill,
but the chances of the requirement becoming law are slim.
A similar demand for an accelerated transition of military
operations from U.S. to Afghan authorities was narrowly
defeated in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives
The sponsor of the version that passed the Senate on
Wednesday, Democrat Jeff Merkley, said the chamber's vote was
above all a message to the Democratic president that it was
time to end the U.S. combat role.
"Our American forces have successfully pursued the two main
goals set when we went to Afghanistan: stamping out the al
Qaeda training camps and hunting down and bringing to justice
those responsible for 9/11," Merkley said in a statement,
referring to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
"It is time to bring our men and women home. The U.S.
Senate sent that message to the President today in unequivocal
terms," Merkley said.
The amendment passed on a voice vote. Republican John
McCain, who opposed it, declared that senior U.S. military
commanders were already uncomfortable with the drawdown Obama
announced in June, and said stepping it up would be "reckless
The Senate vote came as U.S. lawmakers continued to look
for ways to cut government spending and rein in massive budget
deficits. Unease in Washington over the decade-long war in
Afghanistan has escalated amid rising worries about tight
budgets and high unemployment.
During debate on the amendment, Merkley said the conflict
in Afghanistan had cost the United States nearly a
half-trillion dollars, and that it was time to "bring our
troops and our tax dollars home".
His amendment had 20 co-sponsors in the 100-member Senate,
including two Republicans - Mike Lee and Rand Paul, both
members of the chamber's conservative Tea Party caucus.