Three senators used the New York Times op-ed page today to call for complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan two years earlier than the Obama administration plans call for.
“We commend the president for sticking to the July date he had outlined for beginning the withdrawal. However, his plan would not remove all regular combat troops until 2014,” Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) wrote in a Tuesday op-ed in The New York Times.
“We believe the United States is capable of achieving this goal by the end of 2012. America would be more secure and stronger economically if we recognized that we have largely achieved our objectives in Afghanistan and moved aggressively to bring our troops and tax dollars home,” the senators continued.
While Paul had made clear his neo-isolationist stand since before winning election to the Senate, he has won over few of his erstwhile GOP colleagues. The two Democrats have called before for the return of U.S. troops and made no mystery of their distaste for the large-scale presence of American soldiers in that far-off land. Merkley, Paul and Udall wrote an earlier, June 15 letter to Obama calling for “a sizable and sustained reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan” and 24 colleagues joined them. It’s interesting that no other senat,ors signed on to this more detailed and far-reaching piece.
The senators were clearly sending a message to the White House, where, as my Huffington Post colleague Amanda Terkel reports: “On Tuesday, Obama and Vice President Biden are scheduled to meet with U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker and Lt. Gen. John Allen, who is taking over as the top commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In the afternoon, they will be meeting with Leon Panetta, who just took over as secretary of defense.“
Given Panetta’s strong commitment to the timetable set by Obama — stated during his Senate Armed Services Committee nomination hearing — there doesn’t seem much chance the senators will win many converts to their point of view at those meetings.