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House supports Obama's Afghan war strategy

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The House Thursday overwhelmingly rejected a resolution calling for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan by year's end as Republicans and Democrats joined together in embracing President Barack Obama's long-term war strategy.

The vote was 321-93, a show of bipartisanship on national security and a referendum on the president's policy after last year's troop buildup. "We need to stand with our troops and complete this task," Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), a freshman who did four Army combat tours in Iraq, said during the forceful debate.

A resolution expresses lawmakers' opinions but has no legal effect. Although this one had failed in the past and failed again, the debate provided a measure of Congress' impatience with the war in the face of increasing budget pressure and growing public opposition reflected in recent opinion polls.

A similar resolution failed in the House last March on a vote of 356-65, and both sides were closely watching yesterday's vote to gauge the gains among the resolution's proponents.

During debate, lawmakers had warned that passage of the resolution would have dire consequences in the fight against terrorism and put the nation at risk of another 9/11 strike.

"Withdrawing before completing our mission would reinforce extremist propaganda that Americans are weak and unreliable allies and facilitate extremist recruiting and future attacks," said Rep. Howard McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

This week, Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, echoed that warning, saying passage of the resolution would be hailed by the Taliban and al-Qaida as a victory. He told Congress the United States was on track to begin drawing down troops in July. The timeline calls for ending U.S. and NATO combat operations by the end of 2014.

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