Obama's Afghanistan Plans Get Mixed Reactions
President Barack Obama’s announcement Wednesday evening to remove 10,000 surge troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year garnered both criticism and praise from Democrats, Republicans, GOP presidential hopefuls and military leaders.
The 10,000 surge troops will begin withdrawing starting next month, and the remaining 23,000 surge troops will be gone by the summer of 2012. About 68,000 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan, with Obama pledging to withdraw them all by December 2014.
While a majority of Americans favor a quicker and larger-scale withdrawal from Afghanistan, political and military leaders have split opinions.
"It has been the hope of many in Congress and across the country that the full drawdown of U.S. forces would happen sooner than the president laid out—and we will continue to press for a better outcome," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), as reported by the Associated Press.
Facing pressure from both the right and left, Obama took the middle course by setting a course for removal over the next three years.
Even so, the president could not appease everyone. "This is not the 'modest' withdrawal that I and others had hoped for and advocated," Senator John McCain, R-A.Z., said in a statement reported by the AP.
And as congressional leaders had divided sentiments, so did defense leaders internationally.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates supported Obama’s announcement. In a statement, reported by the Los Angeles Times, Gates said Obama’s decision “provides our commanders with enough resources, time and, perhaps most importantly, flexibility to bring the surge to a successful conclusion.”
The New York Times reported the Afghan chairman of Parliament’s National Defense and Security Committee disagreeing with Obama’s plan.
“I am totally against Barack Obama’s this decision with cutting the numbers of its soldiers; our national forces are not well trained and not well equipped,” said Mohammed Naim Lalai Hamidzai. “They should keep training and equipping our forces until 2014 and then extend their existence in Afghanistan for 5 more years in the country and once our forces stand on their own feet then they can go and leave our country.”
Another Afghan leader, Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, the chief executive of Afghanistan's peace council, expressed concern over next month’s planned retreat, reported by the Wall Street Journal.
“Afghanistan should take over responsibility but, at the same time, both the Afghans and the international forces should not repeat the mistake of pulling out too quickly and prematurely," Stanekzai said.
In his 15-minute live broadcast, Obama emphasized the U.S.’s role in transferring responsibility for Afghanistan’s peace to their military forces while still supporting the Afghan government, noting that the decade-long war has made Americans “question the nature of America’s engagement around the world.”
“This is the beginning -- but not the end –- of our effort to wind down this war,” Obama said. “We’ll have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we’ve made, while we draw down our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government,” Obama said.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai also said his nation’s security is their responsibility. “The Afghan people’s trust in the Afghan army and police is growing every day and preservation of this land is the job of Afghans,” Karzai said in a Thursday morning broadcast reported by The New York Times.
The withdrawal of the 33,000 surge troops by the end of 2012 coincides with the presidential election, and some GOP presidential candidates criticized Obama’s decision.
Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, said Obama provided an “arbitrary timetable,” according to the Associated Press.
More than 1,500 U.S. troops have died in the Afghanistan war that has cost the U.S. more than $440 billion, according to the AP.
Reach reporter Raquel Estupinan here.