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Democrats Largely Disappointed With Obama’s Afghanistan Announcement

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 23, 2011

By Amanda Terkel

WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers who have been pressing for a sizable and significant withdrawal of U.S. troops

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

from Afghanistan almost universally expressed disappointment with President Barack Obama’s speech on Wednesday night.

The president told the nation in a prime time address that 10,000 U.S. troops will be leaving the war by the end of 2011, with another 23,000 coming out by autumn of 2012. The drawdown will fully remove the troops that went in as part of the “surge” that Obama announced in his 2009 speech at West Point. Approximately 68,000 troops will still be fighting in the war.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told reporters on Tuesday that the president needed to put forward, at a minimum, an initial withdrawal of 15,000 troops — a number that Obama fell short of — to meet his promise of a “significant” drawdown.

“The president’s decision represents a positive development, although in my view the conditions on the ground justify an even larger drawdown of U.S. troops this year than the president announced tonight,” he said in a statement after the speech. “I will continue to advocate for an accelerated drawdown in the months ahead, and for enhanced training and partnering with Afghan forces, because only they can provide durable security for their nation.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has been a vocal supporter of a robust withdrawal, also said president’s announcement was not what she had been hoping for. “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,” she said.

“[W]e’ll have twice as many combat troops in Afghanistan at the end of his term than we did at the beginning. We should instead have a path to bring those troops home,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). Merkley, along with Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), was one of the authors of a letter calling for a “sizable and sustained reduction” of military forces in Afghanistan, which garnered the support of 27 senators. Merkley said he would consider an initial reduction of 15,000 to 20,000 troops to be sizable. Read the rest of this entry »

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