WASHINGTON, May 5 (UPI) -- Six Democratic U.S. lawmakers called on President Barack Obama to speed up the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan now that Osama bin Laden has been killed.
"You acted decisively in your efforts to capture the mastermind behind those tragic events [Sept. 11, 2001] and we commend your calls for national and global solidarity as we acknowledge the world is safer for his absence," six lawmakers in the 83-member Congressional Progressive Caucus said Wednesday in a letter to Obama.
"It is our hope that you can similarly unify the nation by bringing our troops home and ending America's longest war in history -- a position supported by an overwhelming majority of the American people," the letter said.
A New York Times/CBS News poll released Wednesday indicated 64 percent of Americans say the death of bin Laden does not complete the Afghan mission. But 48 percent say they would cut troops levels, up 9 points from late last year. Forty percent say they would keep troop levels the same.
The nationwide telephone poll of 532 adults, conducted Monday and Tuesday, had a margin of sampling error of 4 percentage points.
The Obama administration has said it would begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July, but has not specified the size and pace of the drawdown. The amount appears contingent on situations on the ground and the success in establishing an independent and less corrupt Afghan government and army, Politico reported.
The caucus members -- Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Raul Grijalva of Arizona, and Michael Honda, Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters and Lynn Woolsey, all of California -- urged Obama to announce plans "for a near-term and significant drawdown of U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan beginning no later than July of this year."
The White House had no immediate comment on the letter. But French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told a French TV station he understood Washington was considering the possibility, as was France. The White House had no immediate comment on Juppe's remark.
U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, is finalizing his proposals for how quickly to start withdrawing the U.S. forces, the Defense Department said.
A Pentagon report Friday, before bin Laden was killed, said tangible progress had been made in expanding security across Afghanistan. The report (www.defense.gov/news/1231rpt.pdf) attributed battlefield successes during the past several months to 30,000 additional troops Obama sent to the war. There are currently about 100,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
When Obama announced Dec. 1, 2009, he would send in the additional troops, he also vowed to start bringing U.S. forces home in the middle of 2011, saying the United States could not afford and should not have to shoulder an open-ended commitment.