Manchin: 'We Haven't Been Successful' in Changing Afghanistan: 'Time to Leave'

By Susan Jones | February 7, 2014 | 5:59 AM EST

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

( - Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) says it's time to "rebuild America, not Afghanistan." He and three other senators want Congress to debate a continued U.S. military presence in that country after 12-plus years of war:

"If military might or money would change that part of the world, we'd have changed it by now," Manchin told a news conference on Thursday.

"We haven't been successful nor do we believe we will be successful. That's my deep-rooted commitment to getting out of this part (of the world) and basically protecting America, making sure that harm doesn't come to any Americans, and we'll do whatever it takes to protect them.

"But an occupation -- that is not our goal. It's not what we do well, and it's not been proved successful at all. So again, I'd say if military might or money would have changed that part of the world after 12 years, we'd have changed it, and we haven't. So it's time to leave."

Manchin on Thursday joined fellow Democrat Jeff Merkeley (Ore.) and Republicans Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) in introducing a resolution that says Congress should vote on the Obama administration's reported plan to keep 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan for another ten years.

President Obama repeatedly has said the U.S. military will conclude its combat operations in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, but he wants thousands of American troops to stay there to conduct counter-terrorism operations. However, unless Afghan President Hamid Karzai signs a status of forces agreement protecting American troops -- something he has stubbornly refused to do -- the Obama administration says it will have no choice but to withdraw all U.S. troops on Dec. 31, 2014.

"The decision about whether to extend a military mission in Afghanistan until 2024 is too important to be made without public debate," Sen. Jeff Merkeley (D-Ore.) said at Thursday's news conference.

"Automatic renewal is fine for Netflix and gym memberships, but it isn't the right approach when it comes to war," Merkeley said. He called for a "robust, thoughtful and critical debate" about America's future role in Afghanistan.

Merkeley said it's not just a question of troops -- it's also a question of sending large amounts of money to a corrupt Afghan government.

"After over a decade of war, Congress, and more importantly the American people, must have a voice in this debate," Sen. Mike Lee said. "The decision to sacrifice American blood and treasure in this conflict should not be made by the White House and the Pentagon alone."

Lee said their senators' bipartisan resolution doesn't prevent an American presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, but it does say that Congress should join the debate.

However, according to Sen. Joe Manchin, "This resolution says...rebuild America, not Afghanistan."

"If you're going to invest, invest here, where you know you get a return on it, and people appreciate what we're doing. We do not have an ally in (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai. Anybody that believes that, then I've got oceanfront property in the mountains of West Virginia."

Manchin asked why the U.S. would continue to support Karzai and keep American troops in Afghanistan "when we're not wanted." "This resolution will hopefully send a message to President Karzai that we will not continue to support his corrupt regime. We're just not going to do it anymore."

Manchin said after more than 12 years of war, more than 2,300 Americans killed, and $600 billion spent, "it is time to bring our warriors home to a hero's welcome," and it's time for the Afghan people to "decide their destiny" and govern themselves.

And Manchin said he's getting a positive response from ordinary Americans: "We don't get too many accolades anymore as Congress, as we go out among the people. But when you talk about bringing your troops home and stopping this absolute endless war in Afghanistan, that's the one resonating thing that brings the crowd together."