After bin Laden's Death, Afghanistan Debate Heats Up

Washington weighs withdrawal, other options
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2011 11:51 AM CDT
US Marines run through dust kicked up by a Black Hawk helicopter as they rush a colleague wounded in an IED strike for evacuation in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, May 10, 2011.   (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

(Newser) – The big question in Washington: Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, what do we do about Afghanistan? Senators John Kerry, a Democrat, and Richard Lugar, a Republican, both said yesterday that we must reassess the nearly decade-old conflict and work toward, as Kerry said, "the smallest footprint necessary." But Pentagon officials argue that rather than withdraw American troops, the US should try to make further gains and apply more pressure on the Taliban, setting the stage for what's sure to be a heated debate.

Also up for debate in Congress: a defense authorization bill being taken up by the House Armed Services Committee today. It includes a new authorization allowing the president to use military force, including detention without trial, against "al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces," the New York Times reports. Some worry it gives too much open-ended authority to the executive branch and could lead to "a worldwide war without clear enemies," while others argue it simply updates the power granted by Congress to the executive branch following the Sept. 11 attacks. That power, however, was only authorized against Sept. 11 perpetrators; this update is more sweeping.

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