U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) today released the following statement regarding the decision to scale back combined operations between coalition and Afghan forces:
"In light of the tragic recent attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, we understand and respect the rationale for scaling back combined operations between coalition and Afghan troops. However, we also believe this decision raises questions about the broader strategy that the Obama Administration has been pursuing in this conflict, especially with respect to its timetable for drawing down our military forces in Afghanistan.
"Over the past three years, the Administration has repeatedly deployed fewer forces than our commanders recommended, and is now drawing down those forces in larger numbers and at a faster pace than our commanders advised. Our military leaders have testified to Congress that these decisions have put our mission in Afghanistan at greater risk, and those risks are now becoming more apparent. In particular, we are concerned that the rush to build up the Afghan National Security Forces as quickly as possible -- so that U.S. forces could begin withdrawing on the Administration's timetable -- has contributed to the problem of the so-called "insider attacks.'
"The President has said that the drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan would be responsive to conditions on the ground. We believe those conditions are now worrisome enough to justify an immediate suspension of further U.S. troop withdrawals at this time. The purpose of this "strategic pause' should be to give our commanders time to evaluate the effects of recent troop withdrawals and to offer their best military advice on how we can achieve our goals in Afghanistan, while preventing further attacks on our forces and those of our allies. We cannot afford to rush to failure in Afghanistan.
"Despite the despicable acts of violence by a few Afghans, we must remember that there are literally hundreds of thousands of other Afghans who have been waging this war side-by-side with our own forces. They are risking their lives -- and giving their lives -- in far greater numbers than Americans or any of other coalition partner, in order to prevent al Qaeda and its allies from regaining control of Afghanistan. These brave Afghans embody the hopes and dreams of the vast majority of their fellow citizens, who do not want their country to become a terrorist safe haven again, as it was before 9/11, and who simply want to live in peace. After all we have committed to this conflict over 11 challenging years, and considering the critical national security interest we have at stake in Afghanistan, we should now take a step back in light of conditions on the ground to determine what we must do to succeed in this war."