Lawmakers wary of pullout date

July 4, 2010 at 6:40 PM
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KABUL, Afghanistan, July 4 (UPI) -- Three war-experienced U.S. lawmakers cast doubt Sunday on whether Afghanistan will be stable enough a year from now for the planned start of a troop pullout.

Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was asked on CNN's "State of the Union" whether the war-ravaged and divided country could withstand the withdrawal of some of the estimated 130,000 U.S. troops by then.

"I don't think so," said Duncan, who visited the country Memorial Day weekend. "This one-year deadline is weighing down heavily on every commander's shoulders, from lieutenants to three-star generals. It's weighing on everybody. … I think it's going to be tough. I don't think they can do it in a year."

Reps. John Boccieri, D-Ohio, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colorado, who served in Iraq, also expressed reservations on the CNN show about the Obama strategy.

"That's a very difficult proposition," Boccieri said. "At the end of the day, success is going to be identified (based on) whether the Afghanistan government can stand up and provide basic necessities to these folks in the outlying areas."

Coffman faulted what he called Obama's "nation-building" strategy in Afghanistan.

"I think this nation's made a terrible mistake in relying on nation-building as the principle tool for achieving our national security interests," Coffman said.

He said U.S. officials should reach out to anti-Taliban elements of the country and "form some governing coalition that fits the political culture of the country."

Instead, he said, "We pushed them aside, superimposed a political process on them, gave them the government that we wanted them to have and we are defending that government today."

As U.S. Gen. David Petraeus took command of the Afghan war Sunday pledging "we are in this to win," Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., both in Afghanistan, weighed in against the July 2011 target date.

Appearing on televised news shows, they said troop pullout should depend on progress and setting a predetermined date signals to Taliban and al-Qaida militants they can simply wait out the U.S. military.

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