Clinton defends America’s Afghan mission
WASHINGTON (PAN): US President Barack Obama is in the process of transitioning out of Afghanistan in an appropriate manner and in keeping with decisions that have to be made about helping Afghans defend themselves, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.
Clinton told lawmakers at a Congressional hearing: “I think the underlying premise is certainly one that can be debated among Americans of good faith. I believe that we were justified in going to Afghanistan.”
Despite assurances from Clinton, a number of lawmakers expressed concern over the current timetable for withdrawal. “I am one of large number of folks here who are skeptical about our current timetable for withdrawal. I'm frankly surprised we haven't talked more about Afghanistan here today,” said Congressman Tim Murphy.
Part of that skepticism comes from the fact that he would like to see the US spending a lot more time on the diplomatic and economic cooperation necessary to get Afghanistan to a place where it could succeed on its own, Murphy added.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairperson of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed concern over Iran’s interference in Afghanistan. “Iran's belligerent and unhelpful role in Afghanistan and Iraq is worrisome, particularly with reports indicating their co-option of those governments at senior levels.”
At another Congressional hearing, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the US still had a tough fight ahead in Afghanistan. “We still have a very tough fight on our hand, but 2011 did mark significant progress in reducing violence and in transitioning to an Afghan-led responsibility for security...”
Panetta said the US had been able to turn a corner in 2011 with regard to Afghanistan. “We were able to weaken the Taliban. We were able to reduce the level of violence there. The Afghan army for the first time really engaged and performed well and took over the key security responsibilities in key areas.”
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