Senate votes for accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan

In a surprising vote, the Senate passed by a voice vote an amendment authored by Colorado Senator Jeff Merkley (left) that requires the President to "expedite transition of responsibility for military and security operations to the government of Afghanistan and provide a plan to Congress for bringing troops home faster within 90 days of passage of the resolution." The Obama administration has previously stated a committment to "transition" the Afghanistan combat mission to Afghan forces by the end of 2014, while also planning to keep U.S. troops and bases in the country past that date. The Senate vote calls for the President to present a plan for an earlier withdrawal of U.S. forces, but does not require a set timetable. Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies described the vote as a sign that "the message of the longstanding and still rising U.S. majority — 63 percent in the most recent polls want to end the war in Afghanistan — is finally being heard in the Senate."