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.”