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Rep. Peter King Slams Obama as 'Reluctant Warrior' on Afghan Troop Reversal

By    |   Tuesday, 24 Mar 2015 08:01 PM

Republicans generally supported President Barack Obama's decision to leave 9,800 troops in Afghanistan until the end of next year, but Rep. Peter King likened Obama's emphasis on them not being used for combat as being "a reluctant warrior … or this uncertain trumpet."

"If he's vacillating in Afghanistan or vacillating against [the Islamic State] by saying what he's not going to do, are other countries really willing to go out on the line for us?" the New York Republican asked Newsmax. "What he is doing is sending a very uncertain signa1.

"It's not the kind of strength that the commander-in-chief or the leader of the free world should be showing," said King, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee. "The commander-in-chief should never tell the enemy what we're not going to do."

Obama announced that he would not cut the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan to about 5,500 as he had originally planned — saying instead that the current complement would remain in place until the end of 2015.

The size of the contingent for 2016 would be decided next year, he said.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had asked Obama to slow the withdrawal of U.S. troops — as security forces in his country are bracing for a tough spring fighting season and are also squaring off against Islamic State fighters who are trying to recruit on their soil.

Obama insisted that the delay would not jeopardize his commitment to ending America's longest war before leaving office and brushed aside speculation that the Afghan withdrawal would bleed into 2017 when the next president takes over.

"The date for us to have completed our drawdown will not change," President Obama declared at a news conference with Ghani at the White House. He added that "providing this additional time frame during this fighting season for us to be able to help the Afghan security forces succeed is well worth it."

The president acknowledged the change of plans would prevent some U.S. troops from coming home as planned, suggesting instead that the danger would be minimized because they won't be in combat.

The U.S. combat role in Afghanistan officially ended late last year as part of Obama's re-election pledge to wind down the war the United States began shortly after 9/11 attacks.

"Afghanistan remains a very dangerous place," Obama said, noting that insurgents still launch attacks and plot suicide bombings to target civilians. Yet he declared his confidence in Ghani, who he said had "taken on the mantle of commander-in-chief in a way that we have not seen in the past from an Afghan president."

Ghani's predecessor, Hamid Karzai, was viewed by U.S. officials as prickly and unreliable. By contrast, Ghani went out of his way to thank the U.S. for its sacrifices in his country, offering a window into the efforts by Obama and him to rehabilitate the U.S.-Afghan relationship.

"This visit is an opportunity to begin a new chapter between our two nations," Obama said.

The Afghan president is scheduled to meet Wednesday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and top Democrat Harry Reid.

Republicans said they hoped Obama's reversal would lead to a complete revision of his Afghanistan strategy.

"The president cannot repeat the mistakes he made that allowed for ISIL’s brutal rise in Iraq — dictating policy preferences divorced from security realities," House Speaker John Boehner said, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State terrorist group.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a U.S. Army veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, said he feared that the 9,800 figure "may already be too low.

"As the president considers his new drawdown strategy for 2016, I urge him to consider the consequences of his deadline-driven withdrawal in Iraq, where his decision allowed the enemy to regroup and morph into what we now call the Islamic State.

"Afghanistan remains our one, irrefutable victory in the war against Islamic terror: we expelled al-Qaida and it hasn’t returned," said Cotton, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee. "President Obama should commit to making sure it stays that way."

One of the panel's senior Republicans, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, said that he had "long-agreed with assessments from our military commanders who say we are succeeding in our mission and that troop withdrawals should be based on conditions on the ground, not political calculations.

"Moving forward, I will continue to press the administration on this issue," he said. "The hard-fought gains we have made in Afghanistan should be protected just as vigorously as they were won."

Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called Obama's decision "appropriate."

"Everyone looks forward to the day when Afghans can meet all of their own security needs, but Iraq has shown us the consequences of leaving a fragile ally too early," Thornberry said. "The bottom line is that our own security is at stake.

King concurred, telling Newsmax of President Obama: "For too long in Afghanistan, he's been doing the wrong thing.

"He seemed, until now, almost consumed with getting American troops out of Afghanistan to show that he was different from George Bush. His pledges were to get the troops out and end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The problem is we ended the wars, but the Taliban and al-Qaida didn't."

The congressman added that he was even more troubled that Obama would not discuss troop levels for 2016 and appeared to be hedging on broader objectives during the news conference.

"The president never wants to be definite — and that's what our allies are looking for, and that's what our enemies are looking at: How serious, how intent, how definite is the president?

"This uncertainty, this unwillingness to make a firm stand — that encourages the enemy, and it causes nervousness and doubt among our allies."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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Republicans generally supported President Barack Obama's decision to leave 9,800 troops in Afghanistan until the end of next year, but Rep. Peter King likened Obama's emphasis on them not being used for combat as being a reluctant warrior … or this uncertain...
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Tuesday, 24 Mar 2015 08:01 PM
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