GOP Lawmaker: Obama ‘Pitied Our Wounded’ Instead of Touting Afghanistan Success

Rep. Buck McKeon questioned why the president wouldn’t take credit for his own strategy.

McKeon: One of the last hawks.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
Feb. 25, 2014, 5:56 a.m.

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.”

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