The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee criticized President Obama on Monday for not touting U.S. successes in Afghanistan.
“President Obama praised his run for the exits or pitied our wounded, instead of lauding the accomplishments of our troops and the importance of the mission they were given to fight,” Rep. Buck McKeon said at the National Press Club. He added, “If the president of the United States won’t give this speech, I will.”
Republicans — including former Defense Secretary Bob Gates — have repeatedly hit the president for not publicly talking about Afghanistan more frequently.
U.S. and Afghan relations have been strained since Afghan President Hamid Karzai refused to let a bilateral security agreement — which dictates U.S. military involvement in the country after 2014 — be signed until after the Afghan elections this spring.
U.S. and NATO officials have, however, led a public — at times, anonymous — campaign to pressure Karzai to sign the pact, noting that the longer the agreement goes without being signe, the more the military’s ability to plan is compromised.
But the California Republican acknowledged that Americans don’t have an overly positive view of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, calling them “sick and tired of this war.” More than half of Americans believe the United States has mostly failed to achieve its goals with the war in Afghanistan, according to a USA Today/Pew Research Center poll released late last month.
But McKeon said Americans should focus on three questions: Is Afghanistan less of a threat to the United States? Is Afghanistan a better place? Is America safer compared to Sept. 10, 2011?
And despite disagreement with how the Obama administration has handled the war in Afghanistan — calling it “outrageous” — McKeon said, “There has been unmistakable progress.”
But he said Afghanistan’s national security forces still need U.S. assistance, echoing comments from Army Chief of Staff. Raymond Odierno at a Council on Foreign Relations event earlier this month.
The Pentagon has recommended leaving 10,000 troops in Afghanistan through 2017, but The Washington Post reports that the administration is also considering a plan that would keep 3,000 troops. The White House is currently considering four options on the United States’s post-2014 involvement.
“Put plainly, without our support — and that support includes presence and money — the Afghan security forces can’t execute,” McKeon said, but he noted that the “remaining gaps aren’t unreasonable for a five-year-old force — they need help with logistics, with administration, pay, and leave, with air support, with intelligence.”