Tags: Afghanistan | Barack Obama | War on Terrorism | republicans | troop | withdrawal | reaction

GOP Senators Slap Obama Afghan Move as 'Politics Over Strategy'

By Todd Beamon   |   Tuesday, 27 May 2014 04:18 PM

Republicans slammed President Barack Obama's decision Tuesday to reduce troop levels in Afghanistan to 9,800 and to eventually end the American presence there by 2016, calling it irresponsible 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," Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte charged in a statement.

The three are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and have long attacked the White House on its strategy for Afghanistan.

Ayotte, of New Hampshire, just recently visited Kabul. McCain represents Arizona, while Graham serves South Carolina.

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Hoping to end nearly a decade of war in Afghanistan, Obama said that he would cut current strength in Kabul to 9,800 troops by the end of the year, with full withdrawal by the end of 2016.

He said American forces — first sent within a month of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 — have struck significant blows against al-Qaida's leadership, eliminated Osama bin Laden and prevented Afghanistan from being used as a base against the U.S.

The troops that are to remain in Afghanistan would focus on training Afghan security forces and on counterterrorism efforts.

"We have now been in Afghanistan longer than many Americans expected," Obama said at the White House Rose Garden. "Now we're finishing the job we've started."

But that pronouncement did not sit well with the Republican senators.

"The president came into office wanting to end the wars he inherited. But wars do not end just because politicians say so," the senators said. "The president appears to have learned nothing from the damage done by his previous withdrawal announcements in Afghanistan and his disastrous decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq.

They said that Obama's announcement "will embolden our enemies and discourage our partners in Afghanistan and the region. His decision on Afghanistan will fuel the growing perception worldwide that America is unreliable, distracted, and unwilling to lead."

The more responsible move was a "limited-assistance mission" to aid the security forces, they said. The move would "preserve momentum on the battlefield and create conditions for a negotiated end to the conflict.

"The achievement of this goal, and the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, should be determined by conditions on the ground, not by the president’s concern for his legacy," they charged.

"All wars end. The question is how they end. The war in Iraq has ended in tragedy. And it is difficult to see how we can succeed in Afghanistan when the president tells our enemies that our troops will leave by a certain date, whether they have achieved our goals or not."

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, California Republican, said that he was “pleased the White House met the military’s request” to keep forces in Afghanistan past 2014, but added that “holding this mission to an arbitrary egg-timer doesn’t make a lick of sense strategically,” The Hill reports.

Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner cautiously praised Obama's decision.

"It has been my long-standing position that input from our commanders about the conditions on the ground should dictate troop decisions, and not an arbitrary number from Washington," the Ohio Republican said in a statement.

"I look forward to hearing more specifics on how the proposed troop number will adequately cover the defined missions as well as provide appropriate force protection for our military and civilian personnel.

"Many Americans have sacrificed to secure our strategic goals in Afghanistan, and far too many have lost their lives or suffered life-altering wounds," added Boehner, who visited Afghanistan last month. "The proposed missions are worthy of support, and I hope moving forward that the president will make a strong, robust case to the American people."

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