WASHINGTON – Earlier tonight, President Obama laid out his rationale for beginning a gradual drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He’ll remove 10,000 soldiers by the end of the year and another 20,000 by September 2012, still leaving nearly 70,000 troops in the country.
We’ll post reactions from Minnesota’s congressional delegation and presidential candidates Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann here.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty – Speaking on Fox News, the Republican presidential candidate told host Bill O’reilly that President Obama had ignored his generals’ recommendations.
“This decision should be based on conditions on the ground and success,” Pawlenty said. “Not some vague notions of a responsible wind down and then jumping over what the real mission is now, which is stabilizing that country.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann – Surprisingly, Bachmann’s rapid-response communications shop has not come out with a statement about the speech. When asked if the GOP congresswoman would be doing TV interviews tonight, her office said she had no plans to.
But Bachmann, who announced last week that she’s running for president, did give The Weekly Standard a taste of what she’s likely to say:
On Afghanistan, I firmly believe that we are at a point where we’ve got to stay the course, and we’ve got to finish the job.
Rep. Keith Ellison – Speaking with MPR News right after the speech, Ellison was also disappointed with the President’s address, but for different reasons. The DFL Congressman said the withdrawal plans were not “ambitious enough.”
“A lot of Afghans want us to leave, we got a corrupt leader there, and basically the people who attacked us have been dwindled to the point where there’s fewer than a hundred of them there,” Ellison said. “So I just think it’s time to get on out of there.”
Rep. John Kline – In a statement, the former Marine Corps colonel echoed the words of his political ally Tim Pawlenty.
“Any timeline for a drawdown in Afghanistan should be based on the conditions on the ground, not the political climate in Washington,” Kline said.