WATCH: Iraq Crisis Builds Bipartisan Support for Keeping U.S. Troops in Afghanistan, Senator Cotton Says
by JAMES RUPERT for UNITED STATES INSTITUTE OF PEACE on FEBRUARY 5, 2015:
The revival by ISIS of a brutal Islamist offensive in Iraq makes it urgent to prevent a similar reversal in the Afghan war—and is increasing congressional support for President Obama to maintain U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) said today.
The U.S. government “should commit now—today—to keeping at least 10,000 troops in Afghanistan until 2017, and perhaps beyond,” to prevent the Taliban and their Islamist militant allies from re-establishing control over wide swaths of the country, Cotton said in a speech at the U.S. Institute of Peace. President Obama said in May he would end the U.S. combat and advisory role with Afghan forces by the time he leaves office at the start of 2017.
Cotton said ISIS guerrillas’ seizure of much of Iraq, four years after Obama ended the main U.S. military mission there, has moved public and congressional opinion to favor scrapping the fixed date for a final pullout from Afghanistan. His remarks came a day after Obama’s nominee as defense secretary, Ashton Carter, told Cotton and other members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that the United States should “finish the job” in Afghanistan. Carter said he would “recommend … changes (in the pullout plan) to the president” if security conditions in Afghanistan deteriorate.
Debate over the Afghan pullout policy is likely to intensify in the weeks before Afghan President Ashraf Ghani visits Washington in March. The government headed by Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah is more publicly supportive of the U.S. role than was former President Hamid Karzai. That “gives us a chance to reset … the debate” over a continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, Cotton said. Cotton, who was elected to the Senate in November, served as an Army officer in Iraq and Afghanistan. KEEP READING