June 22, 2011

Instant view: Obama Plan For Withdrawing Troops From Afghanistan

President Barack Obama announced a plan on Wednesday to begin withdrawing 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by year's end, followed by about 23,000 more by the end of next summer.

The following is reaction to Obama's plan:

NATO SECRETARY GENERAL ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN:I welcome his decision. This decision is the result of the progress we have made in Afghanistan and it follows close consultations with NATO Allies and partners.The tide is turning. The Taliban is under pressure everywhere. The Afghan security forces are getting stronger every day. And transition is on track to be completed in 2014 and that's why we can gradually adapt our presence in Afghanistan.

HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER, REPUBLICAN:I am pleased the president recognizes that success in Afghanistan is paramount. Continuing to degrade al Qaeda's capabilities in Afghanistan and the surrounding region must take priority over any calendar dates. It's important that we retain the flexibility necessary to reconsider troop levels and respond to changes in the security environment should circumstances on the ground warrant.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY, DEMOCRAT, CHAIRMAN SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE:The president correctly laid out the next phase of our strategy in Afghanistan -- a transition to Afghan control that begins by redeploying the 33,000 surge troops starting next month and ending next summer, and puts the Afghans in complete control by 2014. In doing so, he kept the commitment he made to the American people 18 months ago at West Point. As a result of the gains made since the course correction outlined at West Point, we're now operating from a position of strength.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN, ARIZONA REPUBLICAN:I am concerned that the withdrawal plan that President Obama announced tonight poses an unnecessary risk to the hard-won gains that our troops have made thus far in Afghanistan and to the decisive progress that must still be made. This is not the 'modest' withdrawal that I and others had hoped for and advocated.

SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR, SENIOR REPUBLICAN ON SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE:No rational review would commit nearly 100,000 troops and $100 billion a year to Afghanistan.The country does not hold that level of strategic value for us, especially at a time when our nation is confronting a debt crisis and our armed forces are being strained by repeated combat deployments.

NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADER:It has been the hope of many in Congress and across the country that the full drawdown of U.S. forces would happen sooner than the president laid out -- and we will continue to press for a better outcome.

MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:We all want our troops to come home as soon as possible, but we shouldn't adhere to an arbitrary timetable on the withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan. This decision should not be based on politics or economics.

RETIRED LT. GENERAL DAVID BARNO, FORMER SENIOR COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN, NOW AT CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY:What I worry about is the message that is going to be taken away by our allies and potential allies about America's orientation in the world. That sounded an awful lot like an 'America come home' speech.

JEFF DRESSLER, A MILITARY ANALYST AT THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR:My sense is that the military in general was in favor of a much smaller withdrawal. Something they could have lived with was a couple thousand troops. But the fact is the conditions on the ground don't merit any sort of withdrawal -- it's not time to be pulling out a substantive amount of troops.There's a lot that has to be done in the east and you're not out of the woods in the south yet.

LAWRENCE KORB, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS AND FORMER ASSISTANT DEFENSE SECRETARY:I think it's also important that you send a signal to the government of Afghanistan that they are going to have to step up and take over. ... You're also balancing this against other U.S. interests. If the United States doesn't have any money, we're not going to be able to protect our interest in others areas. It's obviously going to save some money.

CHRISTOPHER PREBLE, DIRECTOR OF FOREIGN POLICY STUDIES, CATO INSTITUTEDespite reports that the president's decision signals a move toward a narrowly focused counterterrorism mission, the fact is nearly 70,000 troops will remain in Afghanistan after this drawdown.Such a force is unnecessary, and a far less costly alternative is available to us. We could keep pressure on the Taliban, and deny al Qaeda a sanctuary, with perhaps as few as 10,000 troops in Afghanistan.