U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today reiterated his concerns over President Obama's proposed July 2011 timeline to begin troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and he urged administration officials during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to ensure that any withdrawal of troops is based on conditions on the ground.
"Afghanistan is the epicenter of Islamic terrorism, and establishing an arbitrary timeline for withdrawal provides Al-Qaeda and the Taliban with opportunity," Isakson said. "The resolve to pursue this mission to a successful conclusion must be there. This withdrawal timeline sends the wrong signal to our enemies, and as a result, the commitment we're making with these additional troops may be in vain."
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen testified at the hearing.
While Isakson praised Clinton, Gates and Mullen for their comments in support of a withdrawal that is determined by the conditions on the ground, he strongly criticized comments by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who stated to CBS News that the July 2011 date is "etched in stone."
"That type of comment is not helpful," Isakson said. "We don't need to be encouraging that there's a tolerance level beyond which we won't go in this battle."