What they're saying about Obama's plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan
President Obama gave his latest Afghanistan war speech Wednesday evening, announcing his decision to withdraw 10,000 of the 100,000 U.S. troops there by the end of this year and another 23,000 by the fall of 2012.
Here are some excerpted reactions to the president's decision from across the political spectrum.
GOP House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio:
I am pleased the president recognizes that success in Afghanistan is paramount. Continuing to degrade Al Qaeda’s capabilities in Afghanistan and the surrounding region must take priority over any calendar dates. It’s important that we retain the flexibility necessary to reconsider ...
It is my hope that the president will continue to listen to our commanders on the ground as we move forward. Congress will hold the administration accountable for ensuring that the pace and scope of the drawdown does not undermine the progress we’ve made thus far.
Under the president’s leadership we have made substantial progress toward achieving many of our major strategic goals in the region, including bringing Osama bin Laden to justice and significantly weakening Al Qaeda’s terrorist capabilities. We have also helped put the Afghan government in a position to begin to take responsibility for its own security in a growing number of key areas.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Republican:
With America mired in three expensive conflicts, we have a generational opportunity to reset our position in the world in a way that makes sense for our security as well as our budget. The war in Afghanistan is an asymmetrical war, and our approach ought to adjust accordingly. Our troops have done everything we've asked them to. They've routed the Taliban, dismantled Al Qaeda, and facilitated democratic elections. Now it is time we move to a focused counter-terror effort which requires significantly fewer boots on the ground than the President discussed tonight.
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain:
I am concerned that the withdrawal plan that President Obama announced ... poses an unnecessary risk to the hard-won gains that our troops have made thus far in Afghanistan and to the decisive progress that must still be made.
This is not the ‘modest’ withdrawal that I and others had hoped for and advocated. Though we have been fighting in Afghanistan for a decade, it has only been in the past 18 months that we have had the right leadership, the right strategy, and the right level of resources.
Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California:
President Obama made it clear: We are now beginning the process of bringing our troops home and ending the war in Afghanistan. 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.
We shouldn’t adhere to an arbitrary timetable on the withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan. This decision should not be based on politics or economics. America’s brave men and women in uniform have fought to achieve significant progress in Afghanistan, some having paid the ultimate price. I look forward to hearing the testimony of our military commanders in the days ahead.
The President correctly laid out the next phase of our strategy in Afghanistan -- a transition to Afghan control that begins by redeploying the 33,000 surge troops starting next month and ending next summer, and puts the Afghans in complete control by 2014. In doing so, he kept the commitment he made to the American people 18 months ago at West Point.
GOP ex-Speaker Newt Gingrich:
There is a radical Islamist war against America and our allies. It would be helpful if President Obama had found time in his speech tonight to explain to the American people how we are going to win this war. Giving a speech in isolation about our military operations in Afghanistan without explaining how it connects with a larger strategy for winning the war against radical Islamists does not help Americans understand what it will take to provide for the security of the American people.
Florida's Republican Sen. Marco Rubio:
Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It is about the bigger fight against Al Qaeda and radical Islamic terrorism. After a decade of fighting, the American people are weary of war. Facing massive unemployment and a growing national debt, they are weary of the effort’s cost. So am I. But the answer to a bad situation is not to make it worse. And I have always believed that a troop withdrawal plan based not on progress towards our ultimate goal, but rather on a desire to hit certain numbers, would be a tragic mistake.
I want to see the prompt return of our troops and the successful completion of their mission. Unfortunately, their progress is being undermined by corruption in Kabul. We have yet to see the necessary leadership from President Karzai and from President Obama to address this pervasive problem within the Afghan government.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican:
I thought his speech tonight was deeply concerning. Look how he phrased the outcome of this war. He said we need to end the war 'responsibly.' When America goes to war, America needs to win. We need to close out the war successfully. And what that means now is not nation building. What it means is to follow General Petraeus’ advice and to get those security forces built up to the point where they can pick up the slack as we draw down.
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Photos: (from top)
U.S. troops fire an 81-mm mortar. Credit: John Moore / Getty Images
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Credit: Susan Walsh / Associated Press
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. Credit: Qilai Shen / EPA
Sen. John McCain. Credit: Tom Chong / Reuters
Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Credit: John Moore / Getty Images
Sen. John F. Kerry. Credit: Jewel Samad / AFP/Getty Images
Newt Gingrich. Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
Sen. Marco Rubio. Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
Rep. Darrell Issa. Credit: Stephen Morton / Bloomberg
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Credit: Jim Cole / Associated Press