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California lawmakers criticize Obama's Afghanistan drawdown

Liberals and at least one conservative agree that the plan for troop reductions doesn't go far enough.

June 23, 2011|By Richard Simon

Reporting from Washington — Rarely does California’s diverse congressional delegation agree on anything, but President Obama’s drawdown plan for U.S. troops in Afghanistan is drawing fire from Golden State lawmakers in both parties.

Liberals and even one prominent conservative said it doesn’t go far enough. Another prominent conservative warned it may go too far.

"I'm deeply concerned,’’ Rep. Howard "Buck’’ McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said at Capitol Hill hearing today on the president’s plan to withdraw 10,000 troops by the end of this year and another 23,000 by the end of next summer.  "With the Taliban stumbling, we need a strategy designed to knock the enemy to the mat, not give them a breather.’’

Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte), on the other hand, said the plan falls "well short of what many of us in Congress were hoping for.’’

"Profoundly disappointed’’ was Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma)’s reaction.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who cast the lone congressional vote in 2001 against the use of force in Afghanistan, said, "A more significant and reasonable goal would have been the swift withdrawal of 50,000 combat troops, half of the roughly 100,000 U.S. troops currently on the ground.’’

She is expected to push for a long-shot amendment to a defense spending bill seeking to end funding for the combat operations in Afghanistan.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), a conservative who has become an unlikely ally of the liberal Lee over the war in Afghanistan, said in a statement that the United States should leave Afghanistan. "The centralized system of government foisted upon the Afghan people is not going to hold after we leave,” he said.  “So let’s quit prolonging the agony and inevitable.’’

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon), a veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, meanwhile, said that a troop drawdown is the "right call but, without a change of strategy, shifting away from nation building and putting greater emphasis on counter-terrorism operations, progress will remain slow and current mission objectives will be more difficult to meet.''

During the Armed Services Committee hearing today, he said, "If we had 10 years and 300,000 troops, we could make Afghanistan into San Diego. ... But we don't have 10 years. We don't have 300,000 people on the ground. I haven't heard any talk about change in strategy to accompany the change in troop numbers.''

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