A few Senate Republicans on Tuesday blasted President Barack Obama’s decision to leave less than 10,000 troops in Afghanistan later this year, and said telegraphing that decision will help America’s enemies plan for the withdrawal.
“The President came into office wanting to end the wars he inherited,” said Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) in a joint statement. “But wars do not end just because politicians say so.
“Today’s announcement will embolden our enemies and discourage our partners in Afghanistan and the region,” they said. “And regardless of anything the President says tomorrow at West Point, his decision on Afghanistan will fuel the growing perception worldwide that America is unreliable, distracted, and unwilling to lead.”
The senators also said Obama is essentially telling U.S. enemies that “our troops will leave by a date certain whether they have achieved our goals or not.”
Obama said Tuesday he would keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan after the war ends later in 2014, and would fully withdraw almost all troops by 2016.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said in a separate statement that Obama’s announcement of precise troop numbers makes no sense, because it’s not clear what troop levels will be needed even in the near future.
“If we are going to leave forces in Afghanistan, we should leave enough people to do the job,” Blunt said. “The president can’t know what the situation will look like in Afghanistan two years from now.
“By announcing the next cuts this far in advance, the president’s plan won’t provide the stability that America’s servicemembers and their families, who sacrifice and endure loss of life and health, deserve.”
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was more supportive of the announcement, and noted that leaving 9,800 troops in Afghanistan at least meets the initial demand of U.S. military commanders. But even Corker said Obama should be ready to revisit the troop levels later on in case they need to stay longer.
“Although I am pleased the president has acknowledged that abandoning Afghanistan at this important moment would undermine the hard won gains of our armed forces who have sacrificed so much to protect our country since the 9/11 attacks, it is my strong desire that the administration revisit conditions on the ground in 2015 and 2016 to determine if a full withdrawal is warranted,” he said.