Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Fracturing GOP Positions on War in Afghanistan

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Sen. Lindsey Graham and other GOP leaders support the White House’s path forward in Afghanistan.

“The sooner we come home the better,” Paul said. “They are an unappreciative ally, if they are an ally. ... We have won the war, we liberated the Afghan people 10 years ago, we killed bin Laden, we disrupted the terrorists, and I see no purpose in staying. We are throwing good money after bad.”

Paul said voters are also worried about spending money rebuilding other countries at a time of huge deficits and unmet needs at home.

“We have enormous deficits here. We have bridges that go unrepaired in Kentucky, and we’re sending money overseas,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) both said they back the administration’s plans in Afghanistan.

“It’s important to remember the reason we went there and what happened when the Taliban was running the country,”
McConnell said. “I know it’s been a very challenging period, but I think we ought to stick with the plan that’s been laid out by the administration.”

The White House is also contending that the recent setbacks won’t change its larger strategy — which is to leave the country by 2014.

“This president is committed to ending the war in Afghanistan responsibly,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

Carney, however, denied a report in the New York Times that the White House was floating specific plans for additional drawdowns of troops after the removal of surge troops is completed at the end of September.

He said a decision on the pace of further withdrawals was not imminent.

Obama decried the “murder” of women and children on Tuesday. And he made clear, in a series of interviews Monday with local television stations, that he is not on board with a run for the exits but that he also believes the recent incidents support transitioning power and authority to the Afghans.

“In the same way I brought our troops home from Iraq, I’m determined to bring them home from Afghanistan,” Obama told WFTV in Orlando, Fla.

Other senior administration officials said Tuesday that Obama’s stance will compare favorably to top Republicans — such as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — who have opposed having timelines for withdrawing troops.

The White House doesn’t see Romney’s attacks on Afghan policy as a vulnerability in the general election, contending that the public supports Obama’s position of winding down the war instead of an open-ended commitment. Plus, Gingrich and Santorum’s comments could mute Romney’s criticisms, should the former governor become the GOP nominee.

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