Lawmakers, allies waver on planned troop pullout from Afghanistan
WASHINGTON — Afghanistan's disputed election and Iraq's unraveling are giving members of Congress and U.S. allies in the region reason to think President Obama should rethink his decision to withdraw virtually all American troops from Afghanistan by the close of 2016.
The White House says Afghanistan is different from Iraq, mired in sectarian violence since shortly after U.S. troops left, and that the drawdown decision is a done deal.
Some lawmakers, however, are uncomfortable with Obama's plan, which responds to Americans' war fatigue and his desire to be credited with pulling the United States from two conflicts. Ten senators, Republicans and Democrats, raised the drawdown issue at a congressional hearing on Thursday.
They argued that it's too risky to withdraw American troops so quickly, especially with the Afghan presidential election in the balance. They don't want to see Afghanistan go the way of Iraq, and they fear that the Afghan security force, while making substantial gains, won't be ready for solo duty by the end of 2016.
Under Obama's plan, announced in May before Sunni terrorists seized control of much of Iraq, about 20,200 American troops will leave Afghanistan during the next five months, dropping the U.S. force to 9,800 by year's end. That number would be cut in half by the end of 2015, with only about 1,000 remaining in Kabul after the end of 2016.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a critic of Obama's plan, said, “There's a disaster in the making to our homeland and to losing all the gains we fought for inside of Afghanistan by drawing down too quick and not being able to help the Afghans in a reasonable fashion.”