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Debate Intensifies Over US War Effort

Wednesday, 16 Jun 2010 07:53 AM

Recent setbacks in Afghanistan have intensified debate over the wisdom of the Obama administration's plan to begin withdrawing U.S. military forces next summer and highlighted reservations among military commanders over a rigid timeline.

At a Senate hearing Tuesday, Gen. David H. Petraeus, who oversees U.S. forces in the Mideast and Afghanistan, offered "qualified" support for President Obama's plan to begin withdrawing troops in July 2011.

"In a perfect world, Mr. Chairman, we have to be very careful with timelines," Petraeus said under questioning by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who wanted to know whether he supported the plan.

Petraeus explained that the drawdown would be based on conditions in Afghanistan at the time.

The reservation reflects longstanding uneasiness among military officials over the withdrawal timeline. In December, Obama announced plans for an increase in troop deployment to Afghanistan, which he said would begin to wind down in July 2011.

Many military officials have downplayed the significance of the start of the withdrawal and have said the pace would be based on conditions. The U.S. will not leave Afghanistan precipitously, they say.

But the timetable has put the military in uncomfortable positions, officials have said, forcing them to reassure skeptical Afghan leaders that the U.S. won't draw down quickly.

Petraeus did not elaborate on his own reservations and left the hearing moments later after becoming ill. But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he was worried that the timeline had undercut Afghan President Hamid Karzai's support for the U.S.-led war effort.

Karzai recently fired two key advisors backed by Washington and, according to Afghans, has privately expressed doubts about the war.

McCain said the announced drawdown made it harder for uncommitted Afghans to back the United States. The deadline makes it appear that the U.S. is more interested in "leaving than succeeding," he said.

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Recent setbacks in Afghanistan have intensified debate over the wisdom of the Obama administration's plan to begin withdrawing U.S. military forces next summer and highlighted reservations among military commanders over a rigid timeline.
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2010-53-16
Wednesday, 16 Jun 2010 07:53 AM
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