U.S. Rep Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.) issued the following statement today during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on President Obama's troop withdrawal plan:
"Good morning. The House Armed Services Committee meets today to receive testimony on the President's decision to withdraw 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year and the remaining 23,000 surge forces by next summer.
"My position on the war effort has remained consistent. Afghanistan's stability is vital to our national security. Any removal of forces should be based on conditions on the ground and consistent with the advice of our senior military leaders. Based on the President's speech last night, it is not clear to me that his decision was based on either.
"At West Point in 2009, the President committed to a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan by "surging" 33,000 troops. Every witness before this committee has testified that this strategy is beginning to bear fruit by seizing the momentum from the Taliban. Many Members have been to Afghanistan and seen this progress for themselves. Districts that were once Taliban strongholds are now being contested, and once contentious regions are being handed over to Afghan security forces. The Afghan national army and police are growing in number and beginning to develop the capabilities to secure their country. These gains are significant. We should guard them jealously.
"I am deeply concerned, therefore, about the aggressive troop withdrawals proposed by President Obama. The President's decision could jeopardize the hard-won gains our troops and allies have made over the past eighteen months, and potentially the safety of the remaining forces. This announcement also puts at risk a negotiated settlement with reconcilable elements of the Taliban who will now believe they can wait out the departure of U.S. forces and return to their strongholds.
"Today I hope to hear more about the details underpinning the President's plan -- that we have allowed enough time to achieve success, that this drawdown is a military --not political- consideration, and that it does not put our remaining forces at risk. I'm interested not only in the number of forces the President plans to redeploy, but the location and composition of those forces. I am concerned that we will withdraw combat forces before they are able to cement recent gains, and that areas which have been economy of force missions thus far will now never witness similar progress.
"With the Taliban stumbling, we need a strategy designed to knock the enemy to the mat, not give them a breather. I wish I had heard the President forcefully renew his commitment to winning in Afghanistan. We need our Commander in Chief to remind the American people why this fight must be won and to reassure our military service members and their families that their sacrifices are not in vain. Instead, I heard a campaign speech, short on details and confusing multiple theaters of operation that have little to do with a plan to succeed in Afghanistan.
I look forward to hearing more about how this plan will advance our shared national security interests. Thank you for your testimony."