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Boxer says she will defer to Obama on Afghanistan timeline

August 17, 2010 |  3:01 pm

Gen. David H. Petraeus stirred debate over the weekend with his comments about the possibility of a revised U.S. troop withdrawal timeline. But Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that she supports President Obama's plan to begin a drawdown of forces from the region beginning in 2011.

The Obama administration has said the U.S. would begin to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in July 2011. But in an interview Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Petraeus, who in July assumed command of U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, said the withdrawal date was "conditions-based" and that it was possible it could be pushed back further.

When asked about Petraeus' comments after an event in Chatsworth on Tuesday, Boxer said "the president is the commander in chief, and of course I will respond when the president suggests what our future should be."

"I am supporting bringing the troops home from Iraq and from Afghanistan, I don't believe we can have an open checkbook, and I believe it is very important to set some clear goals and timetables. That's what got us out of Iraq," said the three-term U.S. senator who is running for re-election. "We are spending now, on both wars, $12 billion dollars a month -- a month -- and our troops are sacrificing mightily and we're doing very well."

A spokeswoman for Boxer's opponent, Republican Senate nominee Carly Fiorina, said the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive would defer to Petraeus based on his assessment of conditions on the ground. She said Fiorina would be open to a later withdrawal date from Afghanistan if Petraeus were to recommend one.

Boxer also elaborated on her views about the controversial plan to build a mosque two blocks north of ground zero in New York City. Like Fiorina, who weighed in on the issue Sunday, Boxer said she views the decision as a local issue.

"I'm going to speak as a former government official at the local level -- that is a zoning decision and that decision has to be made by the city of New York and they should look at all the pros and cons and make their decision, and I support it fully," Boxer said. "It's not something a U.S. senator decides."

Boxer spoke to the media after touring the fast-growing Capstone Turbine Corp. to highlight her focus: government incentives that encourage the expansion of "green" or clean-energy jobs. The company says revenue at the 200-employee firm, which manufactures microturbines in Chatsworth and Van Nuys, has grown by 40% per year over the last two years.

Justin Rathke, the company's director of policy and distributor development, said Capstone Turbine has seen an uptick in projects as a result of federal stimulus legislation. In one example, officials said the company earned several hundreds of thousands of dollars from a project that installed five microturbines at a Philadelphia Gas Works to improve energy efficiency.

-- Maeve Reston in Chatsworth