Local Reps Criticize Afghanistan Drawdown

Reps critical of strategy in Afghanistan and public response to Obama’s plan

San Diego representatives with diverse concerns criticized President Obama's announcement Wednesday to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Congressmembers from San Diego and Imperial County each expressed their concerns with the plan and the public’s response to the plan, which will remove 33,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by next summer.

“Starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point,” Obama announced in Wednesday’s speech.

Congressmembers in San Diego either want the troops to stay, leave or develop better strategy.

Rep. Brian Bilbray, a Republican, said he thinks troops should stay, and that a drawback would threaten U.S. national security.

“I remain concerned that the progress our brave men and women in uniform have made in Afghanistan over the last eighteen months is fragile and reversible,” Bilbray said in a statement, “and that we leave U.S. government civilians working across the country vulnerable in the absence of troop support.”

On the other hand, Rep. Bob Filner, a Democrat, wants troops to leave. He said in a statement that he is disappointed with Obama’s plan because it doesn’t bring enough troops home soon enough.

“It is time to accelerate the transfer of security responsibilities to the Government of Afghanistan and to make a more significant and sizable reduction of the U.S. military footprint there,” Filner said.

Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican, urged the president to focus on matters within Afghani government.

“President Obama could do far more to advance our ultimate success and timely return of our forces by engaging President Karzai to root out corruption in the Kabul government,” Issa said.

Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter and Democrat Congresswoman Susan Davis both emphasized strategy over numbers.

Hunter pointed out the necessity of a renewed strategy concurrent with the drawback.

“Drawing down troop levels in Afghanistan is the right call but, without a change of strategy, shifting away from nation building and putting greater emphasis on counterterrorism operations, progress will remain slow and current mission objectives will be more difficult to meet,” Hunter said.

Davis said that although she is not critical of the drawback plan itself, she is concerned that people are too concerned about hard numbers, and not focused on strategic planning.

“We should not be focused solely on the number of troops withdrawn, but instead on how the remaining troops are utilized,” Davis said in a statement. “Our presence must reflect an understanding of gains realized and work to be done in assuring a smooth transition to Afghan security forces.

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