December 1st, 2009
09:44 PM ET
7 months ago

Obama's Afghanistan decision meets with mixed reaction

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama's decision to send another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan met Tuesday with a mixed reaction among the nation's leaders.

Leading Republicans backed the additional deployments, but questioned the creation of a three-year withdrawal timetable.

The sharp disagreement among members of Obama's own party indicates potential political trouble for the president as he tries to rally the country around his decision to expand American involvement in the eight-year conflict.

Obama announced the deployments - along with the three-year withdrawal plan - in a speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, on Tuesday night.

(The mixed reactions of 15 key lawmakers and politicians after the jump)

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California:
"I support the president's mission and exit strategy for Afghanistan, but I do not support adding more troops because there are now 200,000 American, NATO and Afghan forces fighting roughly 20,000 Taliban and less than 100 al Qaeda."

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Illinois:
"President Obama asked for time to make his decision on a new policy in Afghanistan. I am going to take some time to think through the proposal he presented tonight."

Senator Kay R. Hagan, D-North Carolina, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee:
"I am encouraged by President Obama's announcement that he will send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. I am hopeful that he will be able to engage our NATO allies to supplement this effort and to continue assisting in the growth of Afghanistan's security forces to protect their population. With these additional troops, we can disrupt, dismantle and defeat the terrorists there that threaten all of us here at home."

Sen. Paul G. Kirk, Jr., D-Massachussetts:
"I'm encouraged by the president's plans to ultimately disengage us from Afghanistan in a responsible and timely fashion. I remain skeptical, however, about a significant troop build-up when the legitimacy of our Afghan partner is in serious question.

"The president is right to also emphasize political and diplomatic strategies in Afghanistan. I also agree our strategy must involve keeping a close and, I would argue, primary focus on the al Qaeda presence in Pakistan and the nuclear arsenal in that country."

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-Louisiana:
"I support the pesident's decision to send additional troops to Afghanistan and commend him for taking the time to get input from both his military and civilian advisers. Bringing the total American force to nearly 100,000 troops by the end of May of next year will enable our soldiers and our NATO allies to train the Afghan security forces at a quicker pace. This is a necessary step to secure areas that have been falling to the Taliban forces."

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, chairman of the Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on The State Department and Foreign Operations:
"For me it boils down to whether or not there is a convincing answer to this question: What can realistically be achieved, and is it worth putting our soldiers' lives on the line, at a million dollars a troop, as our economy continues to struggle here at home? Sizeable deployments of soldiers from Vermont and other states are only the latest compelling reasons for reaching deep to find the right answer this time."

"At this point I am not convinced that the hole dug earlier by a thousand bad decisions can be paved over at all."

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee:
"I will not make a final judgment on this plan until I have had a chance to reflect upon it fully and, just as importantly, draw critical information from Admiral Mullen, Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton, who we will have in front of the Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday."

"... my preference has been toward a targeted military operation that emphasizes counter-terrorism and focuses on routing al Qaeda, rather than engaging in other flare-ups around Afghanistan."

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska:
"I generally support the revised mission and anticipate that key Republicans and Democrats will as well.

"The issue of Afghan governance also is critical. Benchmarks are needed to track progress-or lack thereof-on points such as the ability of the Afghan people to move without restriction, to obtain essential services, and to determine whether citizens believe in their government."

Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pennsylvania:
"I oppose sending 30,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan because I am not persuaded that it is indispensable in our fight against al Qaeda. If it was, I would support an increase because we have to do whatever it takes to defeat al Qaeda since they're out to annihilate us. But if al Qaeda can operate out of Yemen or Somalia, why fight in Afghanistan where no one has succeeded?

"I disagree with the president's two key assumptions: that we can transfer responsibility to Afghanistan after 18 months and that our NATO allies will make a significant contribution. It is unrealistic to expect the United States to be out in 18 months so there is really no exit strategy. This venture is not worth so many American lives or the billions it will add to our deficit."

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee:
"President Obama inherited a bad situation in Afghanistan – made worse by eight years of neglect and under-resourcing. There are no easy or risk-free choices and the president knows that. Tonight, he made a reasoned case for a strategy to stabilize the region and begin to transition our forces out of Afghanistan."

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference:
"I will carefully consider what the president said tonight, and I look forward to hearing from Secretary Gates and our generals as they explain to Congress over the next two weeks what our strategy will be in Afghanistan. We need a bipartisan strategy that we're prepared to see through to the end. My major concern is that the administration is more focused on an exit strategy than a success strategy. An exit strategy should come only after we've achieved success."

Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wisconsin, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee:
"The president has inherited a god awful mess and has no good options available. I hope his policy succeeds, and I know our troops – who have sacrificed so much already – will give everything they've got to make it work, but there are huge obstacles that stand in the way. We can have the most carefully thought out policy in the world, but if we do not have the tools on the ground, the odds for success are stacked against us. And right now, the only tools available to us are the Pakistani government and the Karzai government in Afghanistan. Both are incredibly weak reeds to lean on.

"We also face the question of how we will pay for the endeavor. The cost of conducting the campaign in Afghanistan could approach $90 billion this year and we're told a long-term, multi-year commitment is necessary for success. That could cost anywhere from $500 billion to $900 billion over the next decade, which could devour our ability to pay for the actions necessary to rebuild our own economy. We simply cannot afford to shortchange the crucial investments we need in education, job training, healthcare, and energy independence. The biggest threat to our long-term national security is a stunted economy.

"If this endeavor is to be pursued, we must have a renewed sense of shared sacrifice – because right now only military families are paying the cost of this war. A progressive war surtax is the fairest way to pay for it – fairest to working class families and fairest to military families."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California:
"Tonight, the president articulated a way out of this war with the mission of defeating al Qaeda and preventing terrorists from using Afghanistan and Pakistan as safe havens to again launch attacks against the United States and our allies. The president has offered President Karzai a chance to prove that he is a reliable partner. The American people and the Congress will now have an opportunity to fully examine this strategy."

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-New York:
"What I would have preferred to hear from the president is how he will bring our forces home within the next year. I see no good reason for us to send another 30,000 or more troops to Afghanistan when we have so many pressing issues – like our economy – to deal with in this country.

The U.S. government is already spending $3.6 billion a month on the war in Afghanistan. Sending an additional 30,000 troops will cost an extra $30 billion a year, which works out to roughly $1 million per soldier or Marine. The people who are complaining about the cost of health care reform should be more concerned about how much we are continuing to spend on these wars in Afghanistan and Iraq."

Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee:
"Although this decision took far too long and it should not have, I am glad the president will finally provide General McChrystal with the troops he needs. However, tonight's speech must be the beginning, not the end, of the case President Obama makes to the American people as to why this is, as he said during the campaign, 'a war we have to win.' If the president remains committed to this crucial fight, Republicans – and the American people – will stand with him. But sending mixed signals by outlining the exit before these troops even get on the ground undermines their ability to succeed."

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) - a nonprofit, non-partisan organization for the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:
"Tonight, as the nation focuses on details of the troop numbers in Afghanistan, IAVA urges all Americans to be equally focused on the plan to care for those troops when they return home.

"The true cost of the war in Afghanistan, like all wars, must include a lifetime of support for veterans and their families. As important as the number of planes, trucks and weapons allocated to Afghanistan are the number of surgeons, psychiatrists and case workers resourced at home. The men and women who serve in Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of whom have already served multiple tours, cannot afford another Walter Reed-type situation."


Filed under: Afghanistan • Arlen Specter • Dick Durbin • Mary Landrieu • Nancy Pelosi • President Obama
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. JACK

    Republicans are outraged and "offended" once again.....what's new?
    BooHoo.

    December 1, 2009 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  2. gary

    I'm glad we have a thinking President.

    December 1, 2009 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  3. Alex

    Republicans support war, it's healthcare they could care less about.
    It's dooley noted.

    December 1, 2009 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  4. Ivan

    If Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld had finished the job in Afghanistan before rushing off to invade Iraq, we would not still be in Afghanistan today.
    So you Republicans should be ashamed of yourselfs, critizing Obama but not Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld for their screwing up the war in Afghanistan.
    Obama has to fix the mismanagement and mess Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld they left Afghanistan in.

    December 1, 2009 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  5. Denna

    As usual the Rethugs backed the sending of more troops but "question the three-year plan". Really people, we can't occupy, and that's what we are doing, we can't occupy other countries on a whim and stay as long as we like. We have got to change the mindset that says we can do what we want to who we want. That will only create more people who want to destroy us. President Obama got it right with this one.

    December 1, 2009 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  6. questioned the creation of a three-year withdrawal timetable

    GOPers own stock in the military supply firms, they are most happy when we are at war

    example: see how rich Cheney got with Haliburton

    December 1, 2009 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  7. Change??? Peace???

    Obama took you in and you bought it........now you're stuck......

    December 1, 2009 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  8. lee

    That arsenal of nukes in Pakistan is the key here.
    Until we rout al Qaeda and the Taliban from safe havens in Afghanistan, and cripple their ability to extend their terrorists efforts abroad, that arsenal is at risk and believe me, no one wants a nuke in the hands of al Qaeda,
    This risk of more American lives, and the tap on our economy, must, unfortunately, be done.

    December 1, 2009 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  9. CBR

    Here we go again. Those on the left think we need to get out. When push came to shove they backed President Bush when he moved the emphasis on the war to Iraq. We never did finish the job we started in Afghanistan. We certainly did not fulfill the mission. Those who oppose this move must consider the consequences of past actions.

    Those on the right probably do not believe that the mission goes far enough. Of course, neither they or their children are volunteering for military duty.

    Instead of infighting politicians should give this plan a chance and hold of their disapproval until we know more. Let's stop second-guessing every move that is made.

    December 1, 2009 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  10. sean fabian

    I've been an avid Obama supporter from day 1; today, I have skepticism about the decision to send more troops; I noticed the tone in his voice and it was not the audible of confidence or agreeance. Is he really making that decision himself or is it to appease a political front? Troops will start coming home close to his 2012 campaign? I don't support politcal convenience; I support equal rights and justice for all mankind! Historically speaking, the middle east have always and will always have quarrels amongst each other in regards to religion, land and power. The United States America is not built to fight a generational war, thus, given the fact we're already fighting an internal war at home, i.e.= home grown terrorism, jobs lost, poverty increase, cop killing and military colleagues killings etc. A revolt will soon follow once all these situations come to a head; this will surely cause us as Americans to implode from the inside and make us vulnerable to outside forces. We are quickly becoming Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar (China) will come and collect his debt.

    We the people!

    December 1, 2009 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  11. Wanda

    I trust President Obama's judgement. He inherited a mess and is trying to make the best decision based on the information at hand.

    December 1, 2009 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  12. Doug

    The President should of just layed out his decision using his hralded speechwriter who wrote about Viet Nam, really and he is in his twenties. Those of us who really did remember this will take issue with his pointed remarks aimed at the older people who lived this. I think it shows his inexperience and the problem with reading briefing books. Oh, I am a democrat who voted him in, but worried now.

    December 1, 2009 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  13. Charles

    "An exit strategy should come only after we've achieved success."
    – Lamar Alexander.

    That statement's so short-sighted it just plain scares me.

    December 1, 2009 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  14. Ken in NC

    I am sure there are people in Afghanistan that are glad we are there to help them and they want our help, however, I am of the opinion that we are in quick sand in Afghanistan and need to get out before we step to far out into the mire of quicksand.

    We cannot be the worlds police and we cannot go around the world building nations and solving the problems of the world. It is sad and I hate that we cannot help all that may want our help but we just can't keep doing this. The world has gotten so used to the USA coming in and fixing the problems of other nations that it is expected of us now. We got so used to doing it that we got cocky and that has caused an increase in ill will towards us also.

    Now it is time for us to come home and fix our own broken country. We are the only nation on earth that can do it so we need to get started. No other nation is going to come to our aid to help us rebuild our nation and economy. This move in Afghanistan is a bad move and I cannot support it. I voted for President Obama and I still support him but I think he is making a mistake on this issue.

    December 1, 2009 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  15. GetReal

    No mixed reactions here...i am very proud of our president that took the time to deliberate before sending our courageous sons and daughters into harms way and giving them a CLEAR mission. I LIKE the fact the president laid out a time table (pending conditions on the ground) to put pressure on AfPak. I also LIKE the fact that he said, we don't have the luxury of fighting open ended wars when we have other committments, such as building OUR OWN NATION. Thank you Mr. President and God Bless.

    December 1, 2009 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  16. LeeT

    Obama is in a no win situation because everything that he does is going to either scrutinized or critized especially by the Limbaugh, Hannity crowd. So opinions really dont matter what will prove out either way is results or lack thereof.

    December 1, 2009 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  17. Barbara

    I stand behind President Obama who told the truth to the American people backed up with facts, solid reasons, and a Plan. He did not spread fear amongst us to get us in line. This unpopular decision he's made shows him as a leader as he is not giving in to critics but has weighed all options-and made a very hard decsion. He makes me proud and I am so glad he is in the White House-instead of those two disgusting fear mongers known as the Cheney/Bush liars. Great job President Obama.

    December 1, 2009 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  18. T'SAH from Virginia

    Go in there – KICK ASH – and then get the hell out!! We MUST have an EXIT strategy or else we will be there FOREVER!!!

    President Obama promised this all during his campaign and almost EVERY Democrat and Republican STOOD and applauds him. ALL OF YOU ARE SUFFERING FROM SHORT TERM MEMORY!!!

    NOW, everyone from BOTH sides got something to say NEGATIVE – PUBS agree but disagree – DEMS once agreed now don't agree!! This is why President Obama had to make his own decision and he will live with it!!

    All who voted for President Obama should STOP complaining and stick with him. We should rally behind our troops to get the job done and then wait for them to come home!!! DANG!!

    December 1, 2009 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  19. not brainwashed

    I suppose the peace loving Democrates now will justify war, because it's OBAMA (our man) doing now!

    Please people vote out both parties.

    December 1, 2009 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  20. Dolores

    Well "YOUR DAMMED IF YOU DO, DAMMED IF YOU DON'T". I wish we didn't have to send more troops, but " you play the hand your delt."

    December 1, 2009 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  21. Tom

    The clueless socialist is such a fool that he thought his audience at West Point was like all of his other audiences, to wit: audiences made up of militant, virulent leftists and other idiots.

    December 2, 2009 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  22. Shelly

    This is a very difficult decision and I am the first to say war is not the answer. But Afghanistan is a unique problem....the Taliban and Al Queda are dangerous and a threat not only to the USA but to the world. These extremists are already planning attacks. Their main goal is to terrorize democracies all around the world...Mumbai, Bali, Spain, London and New York.. And these attacks are only going to be more frequent.
    Their power has to be diminished so that our children and grandchildren can live in a safer world.

    December 2, 2009 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  23. Donkey Party

    Amazing how Republicans act like the Afghanistan mess isn't their fault. Also amazing that they scoff at President Obama's exit strategy, since they never had one for Iraq or Afghanistan.

    December 2, 2009 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  24. Nea

    What choice does President Obama have he was handed this war, We been in Afghanistan 8 years and i donot think we can just pull our troops out and be a safe country. Thank GOD we havent gotten attack again since 9/11 but the way i feel right now this President donot have a choice. And i also feel that our military men and women want to really defend their country and for this President to say we are turning our back on Afghanistan it will disappoint our troops so i really feel we need to get behind them 100 percent and support them and Our President.

    December 2, 2009 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  25. La Chatte

    Obama is delusional.

    December 2, 2009 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
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