"I'm supportive of the President's plan for Afghanistan, as he laid out in a speech to the nation last night. It is my belief that the surge the President ordered in 2009 accomplished its primary purpose -- to seize the initiative from the Taliban to provide the time and space to develop Afghan institutional capacity, including an Afghan Army and Police Force, which are now able to take on a greater share of responsibility in defending their country and citizens from Taliban attacks. I traveled to Afghanistan in February, and saw and heard from our commanders and Afghan leaders there the marked progress that had been made. We are now in a position to begin drawing down our troop levels. Drawing down 33,000 troops by next summer is realistic and achievable, while still ensuring we can preserve the gains we have made during the surge as Afghan Security Forces increasingly take over the responsibility for securing their country. We utilized a similar approach in Iraq, and as a result, we are now in a position this year to bring home the remaining troops there having achieved our objectives. Iraq will not be a Jeffersonian democracy but it will be stable and friendly to US interests.
"As we go forward, our country needs significant reforms to our national security establishment, including consolidating our intelligence community and better integrating it with the Special Operations Command to continue to combat the existential al Qaeda threat. I'm convinced there are other significant reforms possible within the DOD to enable us to realize more savings within the Pentagon budget, which in turn will allow us to address our deficit problem."