Pentagon, MPs welcome Obama decision
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): Top American lawmakers on Tuesday welcomed President, Barack Obama's decision on having 9,800 troops in Afghanistan after 2014, but many cautioned him against setting the 2016 deadline for a complete withdrawal.
"Today’s announcement unquestionably advances our national security interests in Afghanistan," Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid said. "It rightly places the responsibility for Afghanistan’s security with the Afghan government and security forces, while maintaining our ability to aggressively defend against terrorism.
"Our troops have fought courageously to secure Afghanistan and root out the al Qaeda terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks, who continue to plot deadly attacks against our nation," Reid added.
The longest war in American history was coming to an end, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said. Obama had announced a path forward to fulfill his core promise: to enhance the security of the American people and to end the war in Afghanistan, she added.
"The course of action unveiled today moves our nation step-by-step to a conclusion of the long conflict in Afghanistan. This strategy will ensure our military maintains a strong enough presence to continue supporting counter-terrorism operations, train Afghan security forces, and build on the efforts to return responsibility for the safety of the Afghan people to Afghanistan’s leaders themselves," Pelosi said.
But three top Republican lawmakers -- John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte -- criticised Obama’s decision to set a time limit for withdrawal of troops.
"The President’s decision to set an arbitrary date for the full withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan is a monumental mistake and a triumph of politics over strategy. This is a short-sighted decision that will make it harder to end the war in Afghanistan responsibly," they said.
The president came into office wanting to end the wars he inherited. But wars did not end just because politicians said so, they said, adding Obama appeared to have learned nothing from the damage done by his previous withdrawal announcements in Afghanistan and his disastrous decision to withdraw all forces from Iraq.
"Today’s announcement will embolden our enemies and discourage our partners in Afghanistan and the region. 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 said in a statement.
Senator Bob Corker, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, applauded Obama’s announcement that he will support the size of the residual security forces requested by US commanders.
"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.
Congressman Mike Rogers, Chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said it is appropriate that the President decided to keep troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of this year.
"That being said, I question whether the policy reflected by these numbers and timelines truly confronts the threat we face. Even now, an al Qaeda safe haven is emerging in northeastern Afghanistan; and I question whether the enemy will take further advantage of the announced timeline to renew its efforts to launch new operations, as we see them attempting in Iraq and Syria today," he said.
Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), argued in favor of 13,000 troops. "We have held Senate Armed Services Committee hearings and meetings on Afghanistan with our military leaders and it has been determined that we need 13,000 troops on the ground to best accomplish the mission with Afghans security forces. Anything less, and we are putting more lives at risk," he said.
House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith applauded the decision of the US President. "I have continued to say that we must end our involvement in the war in Afghanistan as soon as we responsibly can," he said.
"Redeploying the vast majority of our troops, but maintaining an initial presence of 9,800 military personnel to continue training the Afghan forces and to support operations against Al Qaeda is a responsible path forward. As we move through 2015 and 2016, troop levels will continue to decrease and reflect a more normal embassy presence," Smith said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey also welcomed the decision. "I strongly support the president's decision to maintain a limited US troop presence in Afghanistan after our combat mission ends there later this year," Hagel said.
"This presence, which is contingent on a signed bilateral security agreement, will help ensure that al Qaeda cannot reconstitute itself in Afghanistan, and it will help us sustain the significant progress we have made in training and equipping the Afghan National Security Forces," the secretary said.
In a statement Dempsey said looking ahead to 2015, it's clear that Afghanistan will be challenged with the multiple tasks of seating a new government, confronting persistent threats from those among the Taliban intent on denying Afghans basic human freedoms, and continuing the development of Afghan forces.
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