September 13th, 2009
02:16 PM ET
13 years ago

Dem senators: Afghanistan mission needs timeline, clarity

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Some eight years after the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001, two Democratic senators said Sunday that the Obama administration needs to provide Congress with a clear sense of the U.S. military mission in the war-torn country and a clear timeline for when the president expects to bring American troops home.

“My view is that the mission has to be very clear,” Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.

“I believe it is not now,” Feinstein also said, “I don’t believe we can build a democratic state in Afghanistan. I believe it will remain a tribal entity.”

The California Democrat also said the White House should have a clear sense of how much longer troops would be in the country.

“I believe the mission should be time-limited, that there should be no, ‘Well, we’ll let you know in a year-and-a-half depending on how we do.’ I think the Congress is entitled to know, after Iraq, exactly how long are we going to be in Afghanistan.”

The mission for U.S. troops entails, in Feinstein’s view, clearing the Taliban and al Qaeda out of the country and training Afghan military and police forces.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, largely agreed with Feinstein. In addition to waiting for the release of a report about likely increases in troop levels from the top U.S. military commander on the ground, Shaheen said Congress should also wait on information relating to the benchmarks it has “mandated” from the White House for determining success of the mission in Afghanistan.

Compared to the two Democrats, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins sounded a more pessimistic tone.

“I just don’t know if more troops is the answer,” Collins told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, “We clearly need more American civilians to help build up institutions. We need to grow the size of the Afghan army but we’re dealing with widespread corruption, a very difficult terrain, and I’m just wondering where this ends and how we’ll know when we’ve succeeded.”

Leading congressional Democrats have recently been telegraphing their lack of support for sending more troops to Afghanistan. Sen. Carl Levin, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Friday that the U.S. should focus on building up Afghan security forces before considering sending in more American troops. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she didn’t think there was much support – either in the country or Congress – for sending additional troops.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military commander in the country, has delivered a report to the White House that is widely believed to recommend some increase in troop levels – the exact number of troops will not be known until details about the report are released.

Since taking office, President Obama has ordered an increase of roughly 21,000 more troops for Afghanistan and the Pentagon said Friday that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to announce the addition of close to 3,000 more troops specifically designed to combat the growing problem of roadside bombs in the country.

Without the additional infusions expected by Gates or anticipated in the McChrystal report, current plans call for approximately 68,000 American troops in Afghanistan

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Ancient Texan

    Uh Oh. The Dems are already thinking about repeating their major blunder of withholding funds and withdrawing (surrendering) like they did in Nam. They never learn, just get weaker and wimpier on National Defense. They've already declared war on the war on terror, like it doesn't exist. But anyone who disagrees with them is either racist, or using scare tactics.

    September 13, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  2. Simmy

    Afghanistan began, I thought, with the intention of locating bin laden, and bringing him to justice for the evils of 9/11......Bush stopped looking for him, giving him every opportunity to reinvent himself......By now, he's probably morphed into a tall woman living in the US.....Iraq is a tragedy......The Republican/Bush spin of 'cut and run' has become so prevailing that I think President Obama feels obligated to see it through to whatever conclusion. I say our efforts are fruitless with no bin laden. We need to get out of the region and count all losses...Republicans are already blaming him for all of Bush's atrocities anyway....If he leaves, what else can they blame him for? He's certainly no coward.....He's a very courageous leader......

    Sometimes you simply have to know when to hold, fold, walk away, and or run.....It's time to fold up the tent of lies that caused US to enter those countries.....It's time to hold on to our virtues, and let the world know that America does stand for more than war and bullying....It's time to walk away from the corruption of the past Republican administration....It's time to run this country the way it should be ran – with dignity, grace and courage......President Obama must walk softly, but carry a big stick, to keep not our foreign enemies, but our domestic enemies in line....

    Word to the brave men and women fighting to keep US safe (and their families).....Keep up the great work.....I'm praying for you......Peace...

    September 13, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  3. T'SAH from Virginia

    President Obama is in the process of getting the troops out of IRAQ, right? He is placing more troops in Afghanistan, right – in order to finish that war!! Do you really believe he wants the war to continue in Afghanistan?????? NO!!! We made our POINT – we retaliated – it's been 8 years – it's OVER!!!

    President Obama will end that war in Afghanistan too – SOONER THAN YOU THINK!!! He is a VERY smart man and knows how to play his cards!!! THEN, he would have ended TWO wars in his first 4 years.... Interesting!!!!

    September 13, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  4. Tom in CA

    ...and where was Senator Collins' outrage when President Bush wanted more troops and more money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

    The Grand Obstructionism Party is trying to re-write history..once again!

    September 13, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  5. Bridgette

    Where was this back bone for all of these Democrats in the last eight years. It seems to me if they had this back bone seven years ago we wouldn't be spending trillions of dollars in Iraq now. We wouldn't had to bail out the banks becasue reform was cut down to next to nothing. Now all of sudden there is a democratic president in office and they are full of demands and putting their foot down. And if a Republican gets in the next four years they will go back to hiding under a rock and letting the Republican president do whatever they want to do. Give me a break.

    September 13, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  6. johnnie w

    John King it must be a LET DOWN< you cant defeat President Obama, you go from BAD to WORSE, now it is the Afgan War. Go to that so called Magic Wall, and say 50 times BLUE in 2010 and more BLUE in 2012. Get over it, President Obama won , your GOP lost by a Landslide in 2008, the House, Senate and The WHITE HOUSE. And the WAR will be WON as well. You need to turn DEMOCRAT and be with the WINNERS< but you choose the ABYSS PARTY.

    September 13, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  7. Hugo

    A liberal Congress and President will never be successful at fighting a war, the reason being you have to have to establish a goal of achievement and actually kill people that oppose your goal. Obama has made this a war of winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. The problem is that we cannot win the hearts and minds of people that are one step out of the stone age and only understand rule by a show of power, violence and terror! They understand the struggle for existence because they live it everyday, we seem to have forgotten it in our air conditioned cushy existence.

    For these reasons we will lose in this endeavor at the cost of more US servicemen lives.

    September 13, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  8. Joe Berson

    Afghanistan is a meaty grinder and it has already ground up British forces and more recently the Russians. We made the small darn thing when we went into Vietnam after the French turned tail and fled. Now we are in Afghanistan since shortly after 9/11 and still farting around trying to have this tribal entity like us and accept democracy. When the hell are we going to learn that being the sole superpower doesn't mean being the world's policeman. Tis true that old men makes wars and expect the young to do the fighting and dying. How about our dysfunctional former president who reveled in the title of "the war president" and likely went to war against Iraq "because he tried to kill my dad". General Sherman of Civil War fame had it right when he declared that "war is hell".
    Verily mans inhumanity towards man. GOD SAVE AMERICA.

    September 13, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  9. 3rd Party

    You know, why is it that the Lockerbie Bomber went free? Why did we go to war in Iraq? Why are we in Afghanistan? FOR REASONS NOT RELATED TO THE EXPLANATIONS!!! Let's face it, there's money to be made in war! I feel that America should stand alone and stop policing the WORLD!! If people from around the world want democracy and rights then they should come here LEGALLY! That is what makes this nation so great. I feel that stronger tarriffs, a restructuring of NAFTA and more oil independence is needed to get OUR country on the right track!! We also need to have a NEW GREEN ECONOMY!! We used to rank high in new innovative techonlogy and science...look at us now. People are living in the past if they really think we are where we were in the 80's and 90's!

    China is not fighing any wars...look at them. They OWN us. The Bush Administration made us all indentured sevants to the Chinese! Obama is continuing in his path. Of course, none of us can be factual but only speculate because we do not see intelligence briefings on a daily basis. I STRONGLY feel we need to have our military secure ALL of our PORTS and BORDERS to keep us Truly safe. We recieve far too many imports from other countries such as CHINA...LIKE OUR FOOD!!! I want our food and manufactured items to say once again MADE IN THE USA!!!! Stronger immigration laws and student visa laws!! Ensure that those who come to this country are not here to harm anyone in this country. The same applies to those who are NATURAL born Citizens of this country.

    You see...there is a lot of work to be done in this why are we not spending money for things TRULY needed in this country. For what we've spent over Bush's entire term we could have solved alot of problems such as HEALTLHCARE and BORDER SECURITY. I feel the Iraqi and Afghani people need to take responsibility for themselves and strive towards a stable governing body. We should not be NATION BUILDING. We don't have the right to tell others how to live. If we don't get a handle on things....the CHINESE will be telling US how to LIVE. Food for thought.

    September 13, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  10. JonDie

    History teaches the tiny handful of us who are not illiterate that winning in Afghanistan was going to be tough (among the history-iliterate are almost ALL US military leaders).

    And Bush's criminal act of commission (invading Iraq), along with Bush's criminal acts of omission (FAILING to pursue the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan) mean the US is destined to withdraw from Afghanistan without any chance of stabilizing that country or defeating the Taliban or Al Qaeda.

    September 13, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  11. Navyman Norm

    Isn't that "big" of Gibbs, Obama's Lap Dog! Over 150,000 REAL Americans show up from all over the country and all "the Socialists" can do is their usual "obscene name calling", "vitriol" and LIES!

    No, Mr. President, we are NOT racists, just everyday Americans and veterans like myself who are fed up with your Marxist policies, media lies, and the 536 Gypsie, Tramps and Thieves in our Congress who refuse to listen to us.

    But YOU and they will listen to us comes November 4, 2010! Obamascare, It's to die for.

    September 13, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  12. Terry, TX

    Just like the creepy rabid progressive liberal left....announce to the world our military plans and strategy...tell the bad guys to just sit on their rear ends and wait till we get out ....and there won't be a surge because we will be out there by what date....pick a date....any about Nov 1, 2009....Good Lord.....can you guys fight a war without announcing what you are doing.

    President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill must be rolling in their graves.....this group can't even remember the simplest slogan....."loose lips sink ships". How about secrecy...classified information....covert....not this group.

    September 13, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  13. Chris

    I never felt a time line was needed, and would be counter-productive. However, if President Obama believed it was necessary for Iraq, why not for Afghanistan? President Obama wanted a time line for Iraq because it was an unpopular war and it was a way to attract votes. If that isn't the truth, then he'll be consistent and set a time line for Afghanistan.

    September 13, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  14. B. Szakacs

    Afganistan is not worth one single American life. No one have ever succeeded there. When are we going to learn?

    September 13, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  15. Dan, WA

    Problem here is our commander-in-chief does not know what to do. He has several czars so he has to wait for their advise. By that time perhaps the sky will fall. What a president we have in office today. What a disgrace. Democrats want to study it now. They need more time bacause they cannot take a decision. What a shame.

    September 13, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  16. They call me "Tater Salad"

    John King is nothing but a biased, right wing, waterboy whose opinion is about as "fair and balanced" as Fox Noise and about as relevant as well!

    September 13, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  17. Rick in Texas

    Just curious…how many of you who are opposed to the President’s policies have based their opinions INDEPENDENT of Fox news?

    Very few I imagine.

    September 13, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  18. Navy Jack

    How "DISINGENUIOUS" to have Susan Collins on a panel to represent Republican viewpoints.
    When will you invite Linden LaRouche to the table to represent the Democrat party?

    September 13, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  19. ding dong

    How about

    "its a legal issue, always was.

    give us Bin Laden and we're outta here"

    and "Sorry about the whole BushCheney thing.....circumstances got the better of us"

    Please post, pretty pretty please

    September 13, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  20. joe m

    philosophicaly i don't disagree with dems that the afghans should be able to do more of the work. however, it is completely naive to start believing at this time that the afghans can or should be able to handle their region. we need to insure that they are able to by putting the work in now. do i want to see any more american lives lost in this region of the world? absolutely not. still, it was when we failed to follow up after helping push out the soviet military that resulted in us suffering 911. we left a void, and had we helped fill that void with leaders dedicated to democracy and rule of law, the taliban and al quaeda, would never have had the chance to strengthen and come after us. we are in afghanistan at this point and we've already invested a lot. we need to finish the job this time and we stand a better chance of a more secure future.

    September 13, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  21. Pam

    I couldn't resist this one...if gong ho Bush/Cheny had gotten the right country to begin with...we wouldn't be having this conversation about Afganistan. SIMPLE AS THAT. Color it and dress anyway you want republiCONS....but that is a FACT! Bush?Cheney administration played on the emotions of the weak and scared US citizens to gain entry into the land of plenty (of OIL). Those of us who didn't drink the TEA didn't buy off on it DAY ONE!

    September 13, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  22. g

    if america would have kept there nose out when the russians were there in the first place there would have been very little of taliban to were about no bin laden and company after the russians left they should have stayed and helped build a afgan army to defend it self but off coarse there was no oil there everybody knows the history of that mistake don,t let history repeat itself

    September 13, 2009 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  23. B

    If the President doesn’t find a way to define an exit strategy to get us out of Afghanistan, it might end any possibility of a second term.

    Iraq and Afghanistan are a huge- Black Hole- that will- Consume Everything- needed for programs here that Obama wants to accomplish.

    Just talk to the Russians !!!

    September 13, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |

    Please stop pontificating!

    Leave the job of going after the terrorists to our Commander in Chief & McChrystal.

    We'll sock it to Mullah Omar & Osama bin Laden by 7/4/11 or latest, 9/11/11! Just watch!

    - from someone who voted for Reagan & I'm not black!

    September 13, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  25. David S.

    Fesinstein needs to keep her nosy butt out of the bsuiness of the military and let them do their job. Just like in Iraq her meddling only emboldens the enemy. She is no General and knows nothing about military operations. The Dear Leader should dress her down.

    September 13, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |