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GOP Slams Obama on Afghanistan Move: 'Not Militarily Sound'

GOP Slams Obama on Afghanistan Move: 'Not Militarily Sound'
(Wire Services Photo) 

By    |   Thursday, 15 October 2015 08:16 PM

Republicans Thursday slammed President Barack Obama's decision to leave only 5,500 American troops in Afghanistan after he leaves office in 2017, with Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton saying that the decision "confirms that the president is more concerned with campaign promises than with our troops' safety and our nation's security."

"President Obama is handicapping his own efforts in Afghanistan by setting another arbitrary withdrawal deadline," said Cotton, an Army veteran of both the Afghan and Iraq wars. "Our commitment must match our objectives, and an arbitrary withdrawal will be a costly mistake."

Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham called the 5,500 figure "not militarily sound."

"The 5,500 is a political choice by the president," the South Carolina senator, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee with Cotton, told Jake Tapper on CNN.

"He intentionally ignored all military advice to keep a residual force in Iraq," Graham added. "We paid a price — and this 5,500 number is not a militarily sound number."

Describing his decision as a "modest but meaningful" extension of the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan, President Obama announced that the current number of troops there would remain at 9,800 next year — but that it will fall to 5,500 when he leaves office.

Obama had originally planned to end the war in Afghanistan next year. He acknowledged the nation's weariness of the lengthy conflict but said he was "firmly convinced we should make this extra effort."

Military leaders have argued for months that the Afghans needed additional assistance and support from the U.S. to beat back a resurgent Taliban and hold onto gains made over the past 14 years of American bloodshed and billions of dollars in aid.

Obama said that while Afghan forces have made progress, the security situation in the country remains fragile.

"I suspect that we will continue to evaluate this going forward, as will the next president," Obama said at the White House, standing alongside Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford.

But Republicans charged Obama with merely trying to contain the damage in Afghanistan before leaving office.

"I still don't see how a small number like this, 9,000 [or] 5,000 is going to be enough," New York Rep. Peter King told Fox News on "America's Newsroom."

"With this president, you are not sure what he is going to do, but I tell you all the briefings we have gotten in the last several months or several weeks, the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating," he said.

House Speaker John Boehner said that Obama "finally" admitted that his "arbitrary political deadlines are 'self-defeating.'

"Campaign promises and partisan agendas should never have been put ahead of the safety of the American people, and the stable, democratic Afghanistan that is critical to our national security interests," he said.

Many other GOP presidential candidates were just as critical.

"While I am glad President Obama has dropped his plan to abandon the region entirely, if he is truly committed to fighting terrorism and securing a stable Afghanistan, he shouldn't shortchange what our military commanders have said they need to complete the mission," said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul called the president's decision "a mistake," telling Wolf Blitzer on CNN, "it's also not what our Founding Fathers intended.

"I think people will not stand up and defend themselves until they're asked to," he added.

Former Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Carly Fiorina acknowledged Obama's "recognition of reality" in the region but attacked him for dismissing the advice of his military commanders.

"He didn't listen," Fiorina said after a town hall event in Iowa, CNN reports. "He thought he knew better."

But several other candidates backed President Obama's action, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich calling it "wise."

"Now that the situation has deteriorated on the ground, I think it's a wise decision to say we're just not going to just go running out of there and lose all the things that we had invested over the years," Kasich told reporters in Nashua, N.H., according to CNN.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said that "I think it's the right thing to do" on Michael Smerconish's radio show on SiriusXM.

And while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said that he "welcomed" the president's announcement, he disagreed with "his decision to prematurely announce a further drawdown before he leaves office.

"Our presence in Afghanistan should be dictated by battlefield conditions, which are impossible to predict more than a year in advance," Rubio said.

Other candidates bashed Obama's decision on Twitter, including:

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee:

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Republicans Thursday slammed President Barack Obama's decision to leave only 5,500 American troops in Afghanistan after he leaves office in 2017, with Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton saying that the decision "confirms that the president is more concerned with campaign promises...
republicans, slam, barack obama, afghanistan, troop, withdrawal
Thursday, 15 October 2015 08:16 PM
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