Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Afghanistan Troop Drawdown: Why Congress Doesn't like It

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Afghanistan Troop Drawdown: Why Congress Doesn't like It

Article excerpt

In a break with prevailing patterns on Capitol Hill, the response to President Obama's announcement about a troop drawdown in Afghanistan is not playing out strictly along party lines.

President Obama's plan for a drawdown of 33,000 US troops in Afghanistan by next summer met a tempered response in a war-weary and often gridlocked Congress. But - in a break with prevailing patterns on Capitol Hill - that response is not playing out strictly along party lines.

Some tea party Republicans joined Democrats calling for an even swifter end to the war claiming $2 billion a week and some 1,500 American lives. These newcomers are not committed to the post-9/11 mantra that Congress and the president should set war policy mainly by heeding the advice of US commanders in the field.

From the start, Congress has been reluctant to claim ownership of the US response to the 9/11 attacks. Its Sept. 14, 2001, resolution gave the president authority to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against those who planned or aided the 9/11 attacks, passing with one dissenting vote.

Over time, many Democrats turned against President Bush's strategy in Iraq and were wary of Mr. Obama's decision in December 2009 to boost US troop strength in Afghanistan by about 30,000. Republicans became Obama's most reliable votes on national security strategy. They believed that US war policy should closely track the advice of US commanders in the field.

Many Republicans who supported Obama's surge in Afghanistan say they are disappointed by a new timetable that risks those gains.

"The drawdown of forces described by the President needs to be conducted in a manner that respects the professional judgment of our military commanders, preserves the security gains of the last year and allows for a slower pace of withdrawal if necessary," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky in a statement.

"Any reduction of our troop levels in Afghanistan must be conditions-based and supported by our commanders on the ground," said Rep. …

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