It’s starting to look like the United States will keep military forces in Afghanistan longer than planned. A growing number of key Senate Democrats have quietly joined Republicans and Pentagon leaders in advocating a slower withdrawal and a longer stay for U.S. troops because of concern about the security situation, Roll Call reports.
Republicans have long criticized the administration for setting dates for the withdrawal, and now Democrats who oversee the Pentagon have gradually begun to agree — and they have done so more and more openly. They appear concerned that without U.S. troops, the situation in Afghanistan could quickly deteriorate, as it did in Iraq after U.S. forces left more three years ago.
“Back home in West Virginia, they want to know, ‘Do we have to go back and re-buy it all over like we do in Iraq? Can we prevent that in Afghanistan?,” Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III asked at a Feb. 12 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Afghanistan.
If enough Democrats who have been criticizing the Afghanistan timetable join Republican opponents and military leaders, it would be more difficult politically for President Barack Obama to hold to his plan. The mounting congressional pressure could raise the odds that the president will extend the presence of U.S. forces beyond 2016 if Kabul agrees, or at least slow the pace of the pullout.
Some signs suggest it’s working.