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Obama announces troop drawdown, though lawmakers and candidates are hesitant

WASHINGTON — President Obama said 33,000 American troops will leave Afghanistan by the end of summer 2012. Tim Pawlenty and other Republicans warned against setting such a hard deadline for withdrawal.

President Barack Obama addressing the nation about the war in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House on Wednesday.
REUTERS/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
President Barack Obama addressing the nation about the war in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House on Wednesday.
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“When Americans go to war, America needs to win,” Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, said during an appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor.” “We need to close out the war successfully.”

“We need a safe but rapid withdrawal which encourages Afghans to assume responsibility, while leaving in place a strong counter intelligence and special forces effort proportionate to the threat,” Huntsman said in a statement.

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The Michele Bachmann campaign did not immediately release a statement, but on Wednesday she told The Weekly Standard, “On Afghanistan, I firmly believe that we are at a point where we’ve got to stay the course, and we’ve got to finish the job … I believe that we will be victorious, and we’ll end it. I understand why people are frustrated. I completely understand. But I do trust General [David] Petraeus in that effort and in what he is doing over there. And I think that they are doing what we need to do.”

Republican leadership in the House and Senate issued statements supporting Obama’s 2009 troop surge, though they cautioned about drawing down too quickly.

The House Minority Leader, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, said, “Concluding this war will enable us to reduce the deficit and focus fuller attention on the priorities of the American people: creating jobs and investing in our nation’s future by building a strong, thriving economy for our children.” She acknowledged, though, that “many in Congress and across the country [hoped] that the full drawdown of U.S. forces would happen sooner than the President laid out.”

One of those members of Congress is Keith Ellison. As a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Minnesota Congressman sent a letter to Obama in May asking for “a near-term and significant drawdown of U.S. troop levels” beginning next month.

Minnesota Rep. John Kline, a former member of the Marine Corps who sits on the House Armed Services committee, issued a statement warning against a hard timetable for withdrawal.

“Our goal in Afghanistan is to see them become a stable country that denies the Taliban and al-Qaeda a safe haven from which to launch attacks against Afghanistan, Pakistan, or the U.S. and its allies,” he said. “To that end, Congress should be wary of any timeline that could impact the momentum achieved by the surge of forces that arrived last year.”