Sens. John McCain,R-Ariz.,Joseph Lieberman,I-Conn.,and retired Army General Jack Keane expressed their concern that the plan isn’t the right option as they discussed the president’s policies at the Newseum.
“Afghanistan in 2011 and Beyond: Counterinsurgency,Transition and Drawdown,” was sponsored by the Institute for the Study of War,which educates civilian leaders about military issues,and moderated by Michael O’Hanlon,director of research at the Brookings Institution.
Keane,the institute’s board chairman,said Obama’s plan to withdraw 33,000 troops by 2012 will force themto do more,but with less help,which will cause causalities to rise. Keane,the former Army vice chief of staff,retired in 2003 after 37 years in the service.
“I think it’s a pretty irresponsible decision,” Keane said. “I think there’s a certain recklessness to it.”
McCain said he understands Obama makes these decisions based on a large number of experts’ opinions,but McCain said he doesn’t know any military expert who agrees with the plan. He said plans should be based on conditions in Afghanistan,instead of a calendar date.
“I’m very,very,very worried,” McCain said. “I hope,obviously,that this strategy will succeed.”
McCain’s last visit to Afghanistan was in November 2010.
Lieberman said he is concerned about the withdraw plan because the U.S. needs to be successful. He said he believes the troops are succeeding now,but that could easily change.
“Nothing succeeds like success. It’s also true that nothing fails like failure,” Lieberman said. “The acceleration of the drawdown is a risk that has a lot of consequences both over there and over here.”
The group also discussed improving the United State’s relationship with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and with Pakistan.
“I do believe that President Karzai is very interested in a long-term relationship with the United States and that means some kind of joint basing arrangement or some kind of security agreement,” McCain said. “I hope we can move forward with that proposal.”
Keane said 80 percent of the explosives being used against U.S. forces in Afghanistan are coming across the border from Pakistan.
“When we confront them with this,they lie to us,” Keane said. “They lie to us just like the Soviet Union used to lie to us.”
After answering questions from O’Hanlon,the panelists answered questions from the audience. One woman asked why the U.S. is in Afghanistan and why the panelists believe the U.S. is winning.
Lieberman said troops are there because Afghanistan is where the Sept. 11,2001,attacks originated and because the U.S. needs to protect itself and its allies from another attack like that.
“The stability of that area is critical to the rest of the world,” Lieberman said.
The panelists agreed the U.S. is winning because the Taliban is no longer in control.
Lieberman visited Afghanistan in November 2010 and said the Afghan people support American troops over the Taliban.
“The Afghan people don’t want the Taliban to come back,” Lieberman said. “That should give us some confidence that we’re on the right side.”
Reach reporter Lindsey Erdody at [email protected] or 202-326-9866
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