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U.S. Senator from New York Kirsten Gillibrand appeared in her office in Manhattan today alongside several veterans who recently served to call for the expedited drawdown of troops in Afghanistan. “While our troops have admirably fulfilled the missions asked of them, we must step back and review our Afghanistan policy in the context of our overall national security,” Gillibrand said, according to a press release. In addition to her appearance, Gillibrand — a member of the Armed Services Committee — wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explaining her stance that U.S. negotiations should include groups with stakes in the country beyond simply the Taliban.
Read an excerpt below:
While I applaud your dedication to carrying out the Afghanistan strategy despite the lack of consistent reliability from our partners in the Pakistani and Afghan governments, I respectfully continue to advocate for a change in our strategy to a more rapid troop withdrawal. I agree with your approach of facilitating reconciliation talks as we plan to withdraw. I am writing to suggest that a more rapid withdrawal would be facilitated if the peace talks that had recently stalled were to be expanded to include all significant stakeholders in Afghanistan.
I am concerned that having the Taliban as the sole partner at the table with President Karzai gives far too much power to an enemy that has shown a willingness to cynically leverage those efforts without providing anything in return. As you know past civil wars in Afghanistan have shown that there are a number of powerful stakeholders among the various Afghan ethnic groups who will not honor a settlement in which they did not participate. Moreover, your leadership has helped build civil society, including importantly groups protecting the rights of women and girls. Talks solely with the Taliban risk their future.
Gillibrand’s statements come on the same day it was reported that the United States gave $860,000 to the families of the victims of the shooting rampage by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales in the country.
Of the $860,000, $50,000 was designated for each of the 16 people that were killed and $10,000 was for the six who were injured, CNN reported. Bales is charged with 17 murder counts.