President Barack Obama is hinting that he may wait until after Afghanistan’s elections Nov. 7 to decide on sending more troops into the combat zone – a decision that is drawing heavy criticism from GOP leaders who say the "foot-dragging" risks lives.
In an interview with NBC Nightly News, Obama said the administration might have “a strategy formulated” before the winner of the runoff is determined.
Obama then said “we may not announce it” until after the election’s winner is determined.
Separately, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., told reporters that “common sense” dictates the president would want to wait and see what the Afghan government looks like after the runoff before making a decision on troops, the Hill reported.
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Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations panel, just returned from Afghanistan, where he helped persuade Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to commit to the runoff.
“It’s very hard for me to believe that the president would decide otherwise,” said Kerry, who is becoming the go-to guy on Afghanistan for the White House.
But former Vice President Dick Cheney and other leading GOP voices say Obama is playing a dangerous game that weakens U.S. stature in the region and emboldens the enemy.
Obama "seems afraid" to make a decision on how to proceed in Afghanistan, Cheney said.
Cheney, who has been a stringent critic of the new president since leaving office, accusing Obama of "dithering" over a decision in the country, the Hill reported.
"Having announced his Afghanistan strategy last March, President Obama now seems afraid to make a decision, and unable to provide his commander on the ground with the troops he needs to complete his mission," Cheney said Wednesday night during a speech at the Center for Security Policy.
"It’s time for President Obama to make good on his promise," the former vice president added. "The White House must stop dithering while America’s armed forces are in danger."
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, says the Obama administration is risking American lives by dilly-dallying over whether to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan, according to Roll Call.
“The decisions about what’s going on in Afghanistan are critically important to the future our country, and the foot-dragging that is going on by the administration puts our troops there in much greater danger than they would be otherwise,” Boehner told reporters.
“I think it’s time for the administration to make a real decision,” he added.
Republicans argue that Obama should waste no time in heeding the request for 40,000 additional troops from U.S. and NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., went to the Senate floor Wednesday to say using the runoff as a pretext for delay is a red herring.
“While we would all like to see a pristine election in Afghanistan, something we still haven’t accomplished 100 percent in our own nation, the Taliban is not waiting for election results to continue to kill our troops and attack the people of Afghanistan,” said Bond, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence panel, according to The Hill. "Security in Afghanistan will not come from Kabul; it has to be built village by village and valley by valley.”
But Kerry said the results of the run-off would be found rapidly. He said Obama did not tell him his schedule for making a decision and that the topic of timing did not come up.
Obama told NBC that he and his top national security advisers will not drag out their decision.
“Our basic attitude is we are going to take the time to get this right,” Obama said. “We’re not going to drag it out, because there is a sense that the sooner we get a sound approach in place and personnel in place, the better off we’re going to be.”
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