December 2nd, 2009
05:00 PM ET
4 years ago

Senate committee questions July 2011 Afghan withdrawal date

Washington (CNN) - Lawmakers Wednesday on Capitol Hill sharply criticized President Obama's plan to start a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in July 2011.

Critics argued the president was inconsistently setting an "arbitrary" deadline while also claiming any transfer of responsibility to the Afghan government ultimately will be based on conditions on the ground in that country.

Obama's blueprint faced questions Wednesday as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Announcing a firm date for starting an American withdrawal while also saying such a withdrawal depends on conditions on the ground "are two incompatible statements," said Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the committee's ranking Republican.

"You either have a winning strategy ... and then once it's succeeded, then we withdraw or, as the president said, we will have a date [for] beginning withdrawal in July 2011. Which is it? It's got to be one or the other. It's got to be the appropriate conditions, or it's got to be an arbitrary date. You can't have both."

Full story

Updated: 5: 00 p.m.

Filed under: Afghanistan • President Obama • Senate
soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. Jennifer

    I guess the Republicans would much rather us stay in Afghanistan forever fighting a war that they can't even explain what "winning" would mean.

    December 2, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  2. hampster

    The time line is good news. Seems that the republicans would rather see President Obama walk into a quagmire like Viet Nam. The republicans ignored Afghanistan for years; now it is their top priority. If I remember correctly we withdrew 180,000 troops from Viet Nam when we abruptly decided to withdraw from the ten year war. We also left a lot of South Viet Nam citizens in a lurch.

    December 2, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  3. Moderate

    Sen. McCain's open-ended approach is incorrectly misguided. There needs to be measured goals set for establishing urgency in our mission with the ability to review strategy during the process.

    The Obama administration is correct.

    December 2, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  4. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I just listened to the President's speech on video. He stated his reasons for making known his 'withdrawal' date from Afghanistan. I did'nt think he needed ti make that public either BUT after listening to his reasons I can see his point. Afghanistan needs to understand that we have no intention of taking over their country (that message ws not conveyed to the Iraquis), and that there IS A TIMEFRAME for them to step up, get the training they need and resume TOTAL responsibility for their portion of the world. I thought that was fair enough. Everybody knows where they stand.

    December 2, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  5. Lynda/Minnesota

    Now might be a good time for McCain to disclose Bin Laden's hiding place.

    December 2, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  6. Joseph-Ohio

    Ok, John it is simple to understand. We will begin to exit in 2011 provided the situation on the ground allows. The two are very compatible. Just one of the many reasons you are not President (Thank God!)

    December 2, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  7. Dan in Chitown

    Is it me, or does nobody know the definition of the word "Goal" anymore?? All the nay sayers want to spin this as a deadline....

    If we don't have goals, how do we know if we acheived anything?? Let's commend the President for putting together a real strategy and GOALS and let's try to accomplish them. If the situation is not good, then you revise your goals and move forward. Sounds like something an educated person would do.

    December 2, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  8. wait a minute

    I think President Obama is right that he set a time line, which depends on the conditions at the time.

    December 2, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  9. tee

    Once we will be up to the afgan people to run their country..we will provide training and intelligence......the main goal is to protect our country......we can not stay there forever.....they either step up or get beat up.

    December 2, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  10. Decision Afghanistan...

    Wow ! What a plan....A campaign style speech with with wow..a decision un-becoming for a IN-chief. Sending an addional 30,000 troops on a round trip and to return before they get there...and all this
    took Pres Pbama more than three months to emerge from the big

    December 2, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  11. Joseph-Ohio

    Wow a President with a war mission that includes an exit strategy! Way to go Prez!

    December 2, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  12. sammieb51

    After selecting Palin as his running mate, his first 'executive' decision, McCain shouldn't even be allowed to speak publicly about any decisions made by the current administration. How did he manage to keep his senate seat anyhow? I am sure he did a stellar job for his state in 2007-2008, right?

    December 2, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  13. jj123

    Sandra,Atlanta December 2nd, 2009 11:47 am ET

    Can all of you republicans for just once since January 20th shut up and support the country instead of yourselves. I personally am absolutely sick of you and your constant controversy and complaining.
    Yes because the democrats were always respectful and courteous during the last administration.

    December 2, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  14. Obama 2.0

    Senator McCain,
    "Respectfully” let me help you understand 🙂 I have a scheduled flight/withdrawal next week and will move forward to make that flight. And I will make that flight unless it is cancelled by bad weather/circumstances on the ground. It happens every day of every year to thousands of people. It is important to set goals.
    1. So that the men and women that are working/fighting can see light at the end of the tunnel.
    2. So that our partners know that they have deadlines and have to get their act in gear. We do it all over the world every day in our jobs.
    3. So that our enemies cannot spread propaganda that paints us as open ended blank check occupiers.

    December 2, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  15. Kate

    Hey we train our young men and women in BASIC TRAINING for 3 to 4 months and then ship them off to WAR, to kill and be whats wrong with a timeline for these Afgans........if we can train our men and women in that length of time they should be able to train
    the afgans in 3 to 4 months.......and if the President of Afganistan doesn't help with this effort by cleaning up his act........then we leave them to their own FATE.......there is NO WINNING this war, the terroists will find other places to set up their terror, they have no feelings toward their fellow men and women or children.........bring home our troops to fight and defend this country....... if Afganistan can't get their s...t together in 18 months, leave them to their own fate

    December 2, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  16. Sean

    They're actually not incompatible statements at all. July 2011 is when troop withdrawals will begin. HOW that withdrawal is executed will be fully determined by conditions in Afghanistan when the time comes. Will it be a fast withdrawal of all troops? Or a slow withdrawal of some troops? We won't know until we see how things are going, but we will begin withdrawing in July of 2011.

    December 2, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  17. DB

    I don't understand the issue with the date to "BEGIN" withdrawls. He did not say that is the date we are out for good. Total withdrawl could take years after the withdrawls begin depending on the "conditions" on the ground.

    I have faith that our troops will get the job done ASAP. Hopefully there will not be a need to maintain a 100K plus troop level there so Maybe those who have been there the longest will start ti come home first. If he had not set a date people would be complaining about an endless war.

    December 2, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  18. Tony

    Another bad speech to the American public. Can't just vote "Present" on this one, so he took every possible way out, problem is we need a commander in chief that is decisive. Not someone dithering and walking a line. He really looked bad last night and made the country even weaker thatn his Apology Tour 2009. This guy is a big mistake.

    December 2, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  19. Indy

    Who cares about analizing to death every word he said. At least he took the proper time and preparation and has an exit date. The date means little as we all know it will depend on how it go's. All you meat heads must remember that war is not always as it is set out in a speech. The important factor is he did this the right way, at the right time with the allies in agreement. Quit complaining and be happy he has the gonads to do this job that Bush and Cheney dropped for financial and personal reasons.Shut up and pray for the military and freedom

    December 2, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  20. Marc

    Why is this war so unpopular?
    Because US troops are still there 8 years after the beggining of it, 8 years in which there wasn't manpower or strategy to do anything since, all of a sudden, the atention was diverted and the war was sent to Iraq.
    Did it changed the fact that the architects and supporters of 9/11 were and still are hiding in that no man's land that is the Afghanistan / Pakisthan border? Absolutely not, they are still mad and sociopaths and all that we can think (negatively) of them and are still THERE.
    And wanting to bring their madness to the US.
    So we should retreat BEFORE dealing with them (with all the resources and manpower and weaponry available) or AFTER we did that?

    December 2, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  21. Sniffit


    "waah waah, he's deliberating for too long and meeting too much with all the experts and intelligence people...he should have just done what McChrystal suggested without any critical thought"

    and yet

    "waaah waaaah, he took three months of gathering information and deliberatiing with all the top experts to pick a projected withdrawal date out of a hat (i.e., arbitrary)"

    You know, the least the knee-jerk talking point regurgitating critics could do is be consistent. As it is, the only thing that's consistent is their inconsistency...stepping all over their own tongues in an effort to bash anything the man does.

    December 2, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  22. no longer a democrat

    who do we blame for Vietnam? JFK? LBJ?

    no more war. enough is enough. bring our troops home.

    December 2, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  23. Pam from Iowa

    The speech made sense.
    It was clear that much thought and decision making had taken place.
    Too bad Obama has to continue cleaning up the mess made and left by the Bush/Cheney regime of ignorance and greed!

    December 2, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  24. Jim

    The hawks never want to end any war. Keeping them going earns the defense contractors billions on the backs of taxpayers and dead soldiers. That is corporate welfare at its worst. Call it what it is, corporate socialism. End the war within the year! Keep our soldiers safe.

    December 2, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  25. Paul Higgins Clark

    Last night President spoke eloquently, as usual. He brought up daunting facts which is the reality we face. I am personally a little tired of how he constantly attempts to blame others and look backwards when it comes to difficult obstacles that fall during his presidency. While his accusations may hold some truth, they serve as a major distraction from the problem at hand. That being said, it was clear that President was not comfortable with the decision. Let the pundits blame the setting, his turning on the liberal left or catering to the conservative right, the fact is, he's leading, but with great uncertaintly. One could easily make the argument that this was a politically calcuated move citing "July 2011" as a tool for re-election, but it would be extremely misfortunate risk our young heroes lives for power. The question that is most important is, what type of enemy would you fear the most? One that come at you forever? Or one that will give you hell for 18 months and leave? Some of these extremists have been fighting since 1100 AD when the Crusades occurred. Do you think that 18 months more will do the trick? Unfortunately, the reality of this situation we cannot sustain this fight economically. Dizzy yet? You should be, because the answer has yet to be determined. So be cautious when these political pundits and spin machines think they can sum up a victory plan in a few sentences. The answer is not here. President Obama knows, I saw it in his eyes. President Bush found out the hard way. This is by no means a surrender call, but a reachout to put aside your political philosophies and use our energy to create a viable solution.

    December 2, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
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