Local lawmakers reacted differently to President Barack Obama’s plan to reduce the U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, which he detailed in a speech Wednesday night from the White House.
has expressed concerns about the plan to drawdown 33,000 troops from the current contingent of 100,000 within a year, saying it may be accelerating withdrawal too quickly.
While on the flip side, thinks the president is not moving fast enough.
Announcing that Afghanistan no longer represents a major terrorist threat to the U.S., Obama said 10,000 troops would be coming home by the end of the year and another 23,000 would conclude their tour by next summer. By the end of 2014, all American military personnel will leave and the U.S. will hand all responsibility to the Afghanistan government.
Kirk is concerned the timetable could be a repeat of past mistakes.
“We withdrew our support and ignored Afghanistan in the 1990s and paid a high price in 2001,” Kirk said of backing rebels to end the Soviet occupation and the years afterward that gave rise to the Taliban. “We should learn from that mistake.”
Schakowsky wants a swifter withdrawal. She does not think the current involvement is helping U.S. security, and is not convinced a military solution will work.
“There is little evidence that this enormous expenditure of American lives and resources has bought us added security,” the 9th District congresswoman said of the billions of dollars spent since the 2001 invasion and the more than 1,700 American lives lost during the conflict.
“On the contrary, it has become unavoidably clear that we cannot achieve our goals in Afghanistan through military means,” she added.
Kirk accused Obama of not following the withdrawal suggestions of Gen. David Patraeus, the current military commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and nominee for CIA director.
“The general [Patraeus] was successful in Iraq by maintaining American momentum while the Iraqi army grew to the size needed to maintain long-term security,” Kirk said. “To repeat his victory formula in Afghanistan, we would need to maintain military momentum against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.”
Schakowsky thinks diplomacy, along with helping the Afghan people develop their economy, is the better route for U.S. security.
“I am concerned about the pace of the drawdown, and I urge the president to go beyond the reductions he announced and lay out a plan for a swift and sizeable redeployment of U.S. forces,” she said.