I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Stop the presses, we might have some good news on the war in Afghanistan. Savor it:

Washington, D.C. – In a letter sent to President Barack Obama today, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) urged him to set a flexible timetable for removing U.S. troops from Afghanistan and transition to a sustainable counterterrorism strategy for the region.  The bipartisan group of legislators suggested that “rather than investing a disproportionate amount of our resources in Afghanistan, we need to shift resources to pursuing al Qaeda’s global network."

What, only a letter urging something? It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a positive sign that both parties are realizing the futility of Afghanistan. And they’re not turning against the war on their own, they’re listening to the American people. At a time when the CIA is writing memos on the best way to subvert democracies, it’s a good sign that at least our democracy is still working.

Last month, the anti-war movement got its 3 hour debate on H.Con.Res 248, and while the resolution itself ultimately failed, it did serve as a shot across the bow of the House leadership. While some may claim the movement is irrelevant, it proved we could still get even our wildest fantasies, like an immediate and complete withdrawal, all the way to the House floor for debate. Have the Repeal Obamacare folks done anything close to that? Nope, but it helps us keep this in perspective when we talk about which movements actually have real momentum and power, and which ones are just shameless partisan pandering. The movement to end the US conflict in Afghanistan does have momentum, and as we’ll see, it’s affecting both parties.

Now forgive me for playing stenographer to the politicians, but let’s take a look at the new letter in its entirety:

We are very concerned that the United States’ military strategy in Afghanistan is not in our best national security interest and makes us dependent upon an unreliable partner in the Afghan government, as recent events highlight.  An open-ended, military-centric nation-building campaign in Afghanistan is risky and not necessary to protect the United States, and it undercuts our ability to pursue al Qaeda’s global network.  Moreover, we are concerned that it may increase instability in Afghanistan, as well as Pakistan — where al Qaeda’s leadership is located — at the expense of other approaches that could conserve both lives and resources.  In this light, we urge you to set a flexible timetable for removing U.S. troops from Afghanistan and transition to a sustainable counterterrorism strategy for the region.

The attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day serves as a reminder that we have not been adequately prioritizing the need to track down al Qaeda, especially in emerging safe havens such as Yemen.  Rather than investing a disproportionate amount of our resources in Afghanistan, we need to shift resources to pursuing al Qaeda’s global network.

Borrowing tens of billions of dollars to pay for military operations in Afghanistan has implications not only for our broader national security needs, but also here at home, particularly given current record deficits, high unemployment and proposed reductions in domestic spending.  Our domestic priorities, as well as our ability to address effectively our security needs, have suffered from this diversion of funds and resources.

Setting a timetable for the orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops does not mean ceasing our engagement in Afghanistan and the region.  Our continued commitment to assist the people of Afghanistan will remain important in supporting the emergence of responsive and capable government institutions that can address the socioeconomic and political issues destabilizing the country.  However, we need to recognize that corruption and lack of legitimacy in the Afghan government make our current approach unlikely to succeed.  While we appreciate your efforts to hold President Karzai accountable, his recent outbursts only raise more questions about his willingness to take the necessary steps to address corruption and security on which our current strategy relies.

We should not spend tens of billions of dollars or ask a hundred thousand U.S. service members to risk their lives unnecessarily.  Rather, we should transition to a sustainable counter-terrorism strategy for the region based on an orderly timetable.  Such a timetable could be flexible, but it would need to clearly specify any variables that would warrant its alteration.

We urge you to set forth a timetable for the redeployment of U.S. troops and appreciate your consideration.

This is worlds away from where we were just a month ago with the extremism of 248. This is a thoughtful examination of US national priorities and a reasonable request for a simple, flexible timetable. We don’t have to pull out tomorrow, but just give us a ballpark estimate of when you’re going to be done. Easy. It also includes plenty of wiggle room for other legitimate US concerns in the region, like development and governance, but it remains implicitly against continued military involvement.

And where is this polished anti-war strategy coming from? Feingold is obvious, his credentials are well established, but what about the Republican, Jones? Do we think this congressman has been spending his evenings clicking through Registan and AfPak Channel, carefully considering the critical analysis of a population-centric COIN strategy, and that’s why he’s come to this conclusion? Of course not! He’s a politician, he spends all his time begging for money. And the people who give him that money, and the support, volunteers, and votes (that would be you), are telling him they’ve had enough. We’ve heard what the President is saying, we understand the threat of al-Qa’eda, we understand the need for development and stability in Central Asia and all that, but we’ve simply had enough of this ridiculous war. Jones’ constituents are telling him they want an end to this war and, magically, Jones signs on to a letter asking the President for a timeline. That’s how it works.

Remember, Jones is a Republican. And if we know one thing, it’s that President Obama loves bipartisanship. So even though Jones is just one Republican, he adds a lot of weight to the letter. Unfortunately, support for the war is also bipartisan, so even some Democratic mainstays are beginning to suffer the constituent backlash. The Politico brings us this report on Representative Jane Harman’s primary challenge:

Primary election challenger Marcy Winograd has staged a successful effort to deny veteran California Rep. Jane Harman the pre-endorsement of the California Democratic Party, just days before the state party meets for its annual convention.

Harman had obtained more than 70 percent of the vote in her Southern California-based district’s March 20 pre-endorsement meeting. But Winograd announced this week that she had collected more than the 300 delegate signatures needed to strip Harman of that pre-endorsement. The pre-endorsement of the local party typically guarantees to candidates the endorsement of the state party at the state convention, which places the pre-endorsees under a roll call vote.

With neither Harman nor Winograd capturing the 36th District pre-endorsement, the fight for the California Democratic Party’s approval now heads to the floor of the state convention, which will meet in Los Angeles next week.

Even if you’re a beloved veteran like Harman, it’s no longer safe to support the war. And it’s not like Winograd is some kind of reckless lefty wingnut, her position on Afghanistan is exactly the same as the one Jones’ outlined in the letter to Obama:

Bring our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

End the occupations and air wars in the Middle East.

Invest in humanitarian aid and use diplomatic channels, working with regional stakeholders, to maintain peace and security.

Yup, same as the letter. Sadly though, the Harman campaign is a little confused, and seems to want to boil this down to a partisan issue. From the above Politico piece:

Harman’s campaign accused Winograd and her allies in the Progressive Democrats of America, a liberal grass-roots political action committee, of waging a fight against those in their own party.

"Winograd and the PDA have no issues to campaign on, so they instead want to abuse the Convention and waste time attempting to disenfranchise Jane Harman’s significant number of progressive supporters,” said Harman campaign adviser Harvey Englander. “Rather than firing inward, PDA should target vulnerable California Republicans. The goal is to build the progressive base, not shrink it."

Uh, what? Apparently they’re under the impression that we’re talking about some kind of liberal spoiler wedge issue, like clean needles or freeing Mumia or something.  Somebody ought to tell them we’re talking about special forces carving bullets out of pregnant women and CIA subversion of democracy and Hamid Karzai joining the Taliban. This is real, disturbing stuff and there isn’t anything like that on any progressive or Democratic Party platform. So what the heck is Harman’s campaign talking about? What about Jones? What about all the Republicans who voted for 248, an immediate pullout?

The movement isn’t about Harman’s base, about who’s more progressive or who hates the Republicans more. It’s about whether or not you think supporting a guy who wants to join the Taliban is a good way to secure ourselves from terrorism, it’s about whether or not blowing up housefuls of innocent Afghans is a good way to promote stability in Central Asia. But Harman wasn’t listening to the movement, so she bought herself a very expensive primary and convention fight. Once again, that’s how it works.

And just in case you might be thinking Jones’ Republican support and Harman’s primary fight are some kind of anomaly, David Swanson tips us off that even FOX News is blatantly airing anti-war views:

Ending the war in Afghanistan isn’t progressive or conservative, it’s the mainstream. That’s why you have Republicans like Jones asking the President for a timeline. That’s why Democratic party staples are being brutalized in primary fights. The victories of 2006 and 2008 came on the backs of the anti-war movement, and this year they’re not playing around. It’s no longer safe for Democratic or Republican politicians to support the war in Afghanistan.

Let’s go back to that letter:

We should not spend tens of billions of dollars or ask a hundred thousand U.S. service members to risk their lives unnecessarily.  Rather, we should transition to a sustainable counter-terrorism strategy for the region based on an orderly timetable.  Such a timetable could be flexible, but it would need to clearly specify any variables that would warrant its alteration.

We urge you to set forth a timetable for the redeployment of U.S. troops and appreciate your consideration.

Vulnerable incumbents, there is your life line. There are plenty of bills, supplemental budgets and what have you coming up to vote on in Congress, and plenty of simple, precise amendments around that you can attach to get that timeline. It’s not an immediate pullout, it’s not cutting and running, it’s a timeline of the exit strategy. That’s all. You can listen to the mainstream voices in America asking for an end, or you can wind up bickering to the beltway insiders at Politico about being "disenfranchised."

The vote on the next supplemental war budget is next week. We’ll see if members of congress are aware of the bipartisan momentum building against the war in Afghanistan. We’ll see if they give us the timeline.

In the meantime, come be a part of the debate. Join our Rethink Afghanistan Facebook page and link up with the tens of thousands of people around the country fighting to end this war.