Ahead of a White House Meeting, Top Republicans Are Bringing Afghanistan Into the Iraq Crisis

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is using the chaos in Iraq to make a broader foreign policy pitch.

Caption:WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to reporters following the weekly policy lunch of the Republican caucus November 19, 2013 in Washington, DC. McConnell spoke on continued problems with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act during his remarks.
National Journal
Elahe Izadi
June 17, 2014, noon

The Sen­ate’s top Re­pub­lic­an says he’s not headed to a White House meet­ing Wed­nes­day with re­com­mend­a­tions on how to deal with the Ir­aq situ­ation, but that the crisis bol­sters the ar­gu­ment that U.S. troops are still needed in Afgh­anistan.

Mc­Con­nell, along with Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, House Speak­er John Boehner, and House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi, will head to the White House to meet with Pres­id­ent Obama “as part of his on­go­ing con­sulta­tions with con­gres­sion­al lead­er­ship on for­eign policy is­sues, in­clud­ing the situ­ation in Ir­aq,” ac­cord­ing to a White House of­fi­cial.

“I’m anxious to see what plan he may have, giv­en where we are, but it cer­tainly un­der­scores the sig­ni­fic­ance of the pres­id­ent re­vers­ing the de­cision he pre­vi­ously in­dic­ated he had made for us to leave Afgh­anistan en­tirely,” Mc­Con­nell said Tues­day. “We know that if we don’t leave be­hind a de­ploy­ment that the mil­it­ary re­com­men­ded in Afgh­anistan, roughly 10,000 troops, for coun­terter­ror­ism pur­poses and train­ing pur­poses, we’re likely to see the same kind of melt­down in Afgh­anistan that we’ve seen in Ir­aq.”

Hawk­ish Re­pub­lic­ans have been quick to cast blame for the crisis in Ir­aq squarely on the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for agree­ing in 2011 to with­draw Amer­ic­an troops.

The wind­ing down of Amer­ica’s war in Afgh­anistan will take place over the next two years. Nearly 10,000 troops will re­main in Afgh­anistan through the end of this year, but that force will be re­duced by half by the end of 2015. The plan now is that by the end of Obama’s term, the U.S. pres­ence in Afgh­anistan will re­semble that of Ir­aq, with nor­mal em­bassy op­er­a­tions and a se­cur­ity as­sist­ance of­fice in the cap­it­al city.

The White House has already an­nounced it’s dis­patch­ing up to 275 mil­it­ary per­son­nel to pro­tect the U.S. Em­bassy in Ir­aq. Some law­makers have ex­pressed con­cern that Con­gress should be con­sul­ted ahead of any mil­it­ary ac­tion.

When asked if the pres­id­ent needs con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al for mil­it­ary air strikes, Re­id said, “In my opin­ion, I don’t think they need any any more au­thor­ity than they already have to do what they need to do.”

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