US troop withdrawal fuels concern
"I am deeply concerned about the aggressive troop withdrawals proposed by President Obama," Howard P. McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said on Wednesday.
During a Congressional hearing on the way forward in Afghanistan, he said: "Although troop strength is not the only variable in determining strategic success, it affects all other variables by shaping the perceptions of America's commitment to that country."
Fears of wavering resolve would further incentivise Afghan corruption, as the possibility of renewed civil war might cause Afghans to seek short-term profits. Such doubts would also undermine efforts to end the war through some sort of a reconciliation process, he said.
"US commanders reportedly have until October 15 of this year to submit a plan regarding the details of the remaining 2012 redeployments," he said. However, at a July 6 press conference, former ISAF Joint Command commander Lieutenant General David Rodriguez identified units that were coming out of Afghanistan starting this month, he noted.
"It is not entirely clear whether the units were never intended to be replaced, and therefore not part of the president's plan, or if the redeployment is occurring in advance of October 15," he said.
But congressmen from the ruling Democratic party differed. "Let me be clear upfront -- I support the president's decision to begin to withdraw our forces from Afghanistan as rapidly as we responsibly can," said Adam Smith.
For almost a decade, the United States had invested considerable resources to address the national security threat it faced in Afghanistan, he said, adding that investment was paying off: both General Petraeus and the president have stated the surge forces sent to Afghanistan have helped to make real and substantial progress.
"Having said that, we must not lose sight of the fact that this redeployment must be responsible and not undermine the progress we have made. The Taliban's momentum in the south and southwest of Afghanistan has been halted and reversed," Smith insisted.
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