Senate GOP leaders not criticizing president's Afghanistan trip
May 1st, 2012
06:11 PM ET
10 years ago

Senate GOP leaders not criticizing president's Afghanistan trip

(CNN) - Senate Republican leaders don't plan any formal reaction – or criticism – of President Barack Obama's surprise trip to Afghanistan, according to a top Senate GOP leadership aide.

The aide said the president announced the troop drawdown almost a year ago, and there is little new to say.

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"We obviously don't have any beef with the president visiting the troops," the aide said.

The sentiment was echoed by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who told CNN's Dana Bash that "it's always good when the president goes to where young men and women are in harms way."

McCain also said Republicans are supportive of the Strategic Partnership Agreement Obama signed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, although they have not been briefed on all the details of it.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina also had praise for the president over the trip, especially over the agreement, which he called in a statement "an insurance policy against the reemergence of Taliban and al-Qaeda."

With the partnership, Graham added, "we have reached a turning point in the Afghan war. With proper implementation, this agreement will be the end of the Taliban's dream of retaking Afghanistan."

However, Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, did criticize Obama's decision to travel to Afghanistan.

"Clearly this trip is campaign related," said the Oklahoma senator in a press release.

Inhofe said the trip was "an attempt to shore up his national security credentials because he has spent the past three years gutting our military."

The senator accused Obama of allowing "Washington and campaign politics to dictate his strategy in Afghanistan rather than actual conditions on the ground."

Obama's trip comes one year after the successful mission to kill Osama bin Laden and the same week as the president's re-election campaign released a television ad that questioned whether Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would have approved the mission if he were president.

Also critical of Obama, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon said the visit to Afghanistan, the president's first trip to the war zone since December 2010, was long overdue.

In a phone interview with CNN's Deirdre Walsh, McKeon pointed to what he called recent "setbacks," referring to controversies involving soldiers urinating on corpses and a U.S. soldier allegedly killing 16 Afghans.

"Some bad things happened, and when bad things happen and that's the only thing people hear, they want to cut and run. The mission is too important for that," McKeon said. "The president could really bring the American people up what happening on the good side of the mission, and instead they just hear the bad stuff."

McKeon, who was briefed Tuesday afternoon by Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, also offered criticism of the agreement, countering the reactions from some of his fellow Republicans in Congress.

"There's nothing new in the agreement. It just basically says we're going to have an ongoing relationship; we're not going to have any permanent bases. We'll work together as partners and the troops – fighting troops – will be out in 2014."

Asked if the trip was campaign related, McKeon said, "Look, I think the president has been in campaign mode since Labor Day."

But he added, "All presidents campaign, so I'm not going to fault him on that."

On the timing of the trip, Carter told McKeon that Afghan President Hamid Karzai told the U.S. he wanted to sign the agreement before the NATO meeting in Chicago.

"I don't know why we have to kowtow to Karzai, but it is what it is," McKeon said.

- CNN's Deirdre Walsh and Dana Bash contributed to this report.

Also see:

Romney might convince me, Christie says

Obama calls out 'previous statements' about bin Laden

McDonnell's Va. ads are about his state, not himself, spokesman says

Filed under: Afghanistan • Congress • Jim Inhofe • John McCain • President Obama • Senate
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Tamara

    Wow! Now all DC republicans are coming down with a high case of FLIP-FLOP-FEVER!

    May 2, 2012 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
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