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Md. lawmakers offer tepid reaction to Obama on Afghanistan

Maryland lawmakers offered a decidedly mixed reaction Wednesday to President Barack Obama's decision to pull tens of thousands of U.S. troops out of Afghanistan in the coming months.

Obama announced in a nationally televised address that the U.S. will withdraw 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of next summer. That process will begin next month, he said, when the administration will begin removing the first 10,000 troops.

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The reduction, which comes amid growing bipartisan concern over the war and just weeks after special forces killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, will cancel out the 30,000-troop Afghanistan "surge" Obama announced in 2009. Some 68,000 military personnel would remain in the country after September 2012.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, argued that the White House should pursue a faster timetable.

"U.S. forces have served admirably in Afghanistan for nearly a decade, but they should not be expected to secure and police every Afghan town and village," the Maryland Democrat said in a statement. "The shift in U.S. policy and troop withdrawal should be sped up, saving American lives and treasure."

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski echoed that sentiment in a statement Thursday.

"It's an important first step, but it can't be the only step," she said. "I respectfully urge the president to examine every opportunity to accelerate bringing our troops home."

Rep. Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, offered a measured statement.

"Our struggle against terrorists who would do Americans harm is certainly not over," said Hoyer, who represents Southern Maryland. "But now is a time to consider how the threats against Americans have changed, and how we can most effectively defeat the terrorists behind those threats."

Rep. Donna F. Edwards, a Prince George's County Democrat, released a joint statement with Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington. The two are co-chairs of the Afghan Women's Task Force, which they launched this month, and said they are concerned about the impact of withdrawing the troops.

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"We share the concerns of Afghanistan's female members of parliament, civic, and business leaders that a U.S. drawdown could leave a vacuum where Afghan women see their rights eroded in a government transition," they said.

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Baltimore County Democrat, praised Obama for pulling out of Afghanistan "in a way that gives the commanders on the ground the resources, time and flexibility they need to react to the situation."

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