Two leading voices in the Senate on foreign policy continued their criticism of President Barack Obama’s plan to withdraw roughly 30,000 American troops from Afghanistan over the next 14 months.
Republican Sen. John McCain, speaking from Kabul, Afghanistan, said Sunday the president’s plan creates an “unnecessary risk” in the region.
“What I have seen and heard here, both from Afghans as well as a number of Americans, is that it is an unnecessary risk, it’s not recommended by any of the military,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And I hope that it will work out, but it certainly deprives us of the necessary troops that we need for the second fighting season.”
The Arizona Republican and ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee said the president’s decision created uncertainty in the region with Afghans now wondering if the United States will stay in their villages.
“That can undermine the whole effort and sacrifice that has been made ever since this important surge began,” McCain said.
But the veteran senator declined to categorize the decision by the man who defeated him in the 2008 presidential election as a political one, unlike other Republicans, including Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
“I question whether this was the right decision or not, but I can’t question the president’s patriotism,” McCain told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.
In June, Obama announced that all 33,000 additional U.S.forces he ordered to Afghanistan in December 2009 will be home within 15 months. The 10,000 “surge” forces would withdraw by the end of 2011 and another 23,000 would leave Afghanistanby September 2012, Obama said.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is traveling with McCain and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, said Obama’s decision may “undercut the momentum” achieved by forces on the ground.
“Things were moving in the right direction,” Graham said on “Fox News Sunday.” “My fear is people will look at this as a withdrawal, not a transition.”
Graham, also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the president’s decision was based on a “Obama-Biden strategy” instead of the recommendation of military leaders. Graham questioned Lt. Gen John Allen, the incoming commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, at a congressional hearing last month where Allen said the president’s plan “is a more aggressive option than that which was presented.”
“The commander-in-chief can make any decision he would like. He should listen to his military commanders,” Graham said. “I just hope and pray that this works out well. It came at a very critical time. And we will see what the future holds.”