With President Obama expected to receive recommendations this week on the scope of a drawdown, there’s been sufficient antsiness on both sides of the aisle.
While Democratic leaders have been increasingly applying pressure on the administration to pull out a significant number of troops, Republicans have been expressing their own reservations. The House Appropriations Committee this week endorsed a proposal — advanced by Rep. Frank Wolf (R.-Va.) — to create an independent panel to conduct an assessment of U.S. policy, and even some of the GOP presidential candidates are backing away from their steadfast support of the war.
“We are 10 years into our nation’s longest running war and the American people and their elected representatives do not have a clear sense of what we are aiming to achieve, why it is necessary, and how far we are from attaining our goal,” Wolf said in a statement.
Wednesday morning, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) became the latest Democrat to call for a change in strategy. In an op-ed in the Delaware News Journal, he concludes that the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan has become unsustainable.
“On our current course, I suspect that we will be no closer to a truly secure and stable Afghanistan five or 10 years from now than we are today,” wrote Coons, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and who filled Vice President Biden’s old seat. “Our current counterinsurgency strategy does not appear to be producing an advantage that will ensure the progress we are making can be sustained after the planned complete withdrawal of U.S. forces by the end of 2014.”
The administration has signaled that it has no interest in reopening a debate over the strategy in Afghanistan. Rather, officials have said, the goal should be to debate the specifics of the strategy that has already been implemented. And some officials are confident that any doubts about the current strategy can be overcome.
“I think that Congress is very reluctant to thwart the president when he has decided something is in the national interest,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. “I think that people are responsive to strong leadership.”
The administration is likely to try to make its argument more forcefully in the days ahead. And, as it happens, the White House has a pretty good advocate for counterinsurgency on hand. Gen. David H. Petraeus, Obama’s nominee as CIA director, has touched down in Washington.