December 1st, 2009
09:44 PM ET
9 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. Preston kathy

    Pkm start the draft are troops can not 3 tours

    December 2, 2009 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  2. Preston kathy

    Pkm obama sold out to the gop and the generals that do not care how many soliders die

    December 2, 2009 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  3. Bob

    Those who suggest that the USA should just give up in Afghanistan should check their history books. Giving up and abandoning the country to Taliban rule (rule by a small minority whom are hated in Afghanistan) is exactly how 9/11 occurred. In fact the instability of the whole region is due to the Americans training and equipping Al Quida and the Taliban (to fight the soviets) and then leaving without even taking the weapons away from the madmen they created.

    December 2, 2009 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  4. JOE

    Between the last three wars you people in are so called Government. Have not learned a dam thing.Iv,e seen Bush war go no were. Now we will watch this war go no were. But innocent soldiers and innocent Afghanistan people will die and country wrecked.What is next Iran I,m sure the Republicans will say there ready for that to.When will it stop you people in are Government can,t even take care of are own country.You won,t even do what is right for are own country the U.S.A..Like are borders or enforcing laws with immigration.You government people have taken this country i love to a place that me and a lot of other Americans wonder if are government is working to make thing better for us Americans or there self only For what iv,e seen in my 58 Years i don,t like what i,m seeing.Im worried by the time are government is done with the U.S.A. they will be changing this country i love and my kids have to live in to China.a Communist country.If are founders of this country could see that we are doing business with China a communist country i don,t think they would be happy.But look what you great people that are running are country have put this great country into. A BIG MESS THANK TO YOUR GREED AND WARS

    December 2, 2009 02:12 am at 2:12 am |
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