Article: The Out of Iraq Caucus Wants Out of More Than Iraq (CQ)

April 20, 2009 – 10:04 p.m.

The Out of Iraq Caucus Wants Out of More Than Iraq
By Alan K. Ota, CQ Staff

The Out of Iraq Caucus, which formed nearly four years ago, has yet to achieve its main objective of a full U.S. troop withdrawal from that Middle Eastern nation, but it is beginning to turn its sights to another war zone: Afghanistan.

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva , D-Ariz., co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, says he and other Out of Iraq Caucus members are thinking about putting a greater emphasis on Afghanistan.
In fact, he said, the name of the Out of Iraq Caucus could change to reflect the rising concerns of many liberal Democrats about the growing military commitment in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops have been searching for al Qaeda leaders and fighting a Taliban insurgency since October 2001.

“I think we see that we have the same problems in Afghanistan that we once had in Iraq: no end, no exit strategy, no clear end product of our presence there,” Grijalva said.

“There’s going to be a meeting to organize that concept of what the Out of Iraq is going to do,” he said.

In the 110th Congress, the Out of Iraq Caucus had more than 60 members and focused on pressuring President George W. Bush and party leaders to consider timetables for troop withdrawal from Iraq.
Caucus leaders, such as California Democrats Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee , have been strong supporters of President Obama and much of his agenda this year, but Democratic aides said a number of liberal members are now discussing how hard they intend to press him to withdraw troops from both countries.

In Iraq, Obama has said he intends to withdraw combat troops by August 2010 and all remaining forces by the end of 2011. As for Afghanistan, he has unveiled plans to increase the 38,000 troops by about 50 percent in coming months.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has established a working group to study U.S. policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan. But for now, many liberal lawmakers are studying Obama’s request for $83.4 billion in supplemental spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tim Carpenter, executive director of the Progressive Democrats of America, an anti-war advocacy group that has long worked with the Out of Iraq Caucus, said he hoped the group would continue to press Obama to stick to withdrawal plans in Iraq and urge him to draw down forces in Afghanistan.

“We would love to see the Out of Iraq Caucus continue working,” he said, adding: “We want to focus more attention on Afghanistan. Our theme should be health care, not warfare.”