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Black Lawmakers Respond to Afghanistan Surge
President Barack Obama unveiled his long-awaited Afghanistan strategy on Dec. 2 that included a plan to deploy an additional 30,000 troops and an ambitious timetable to begin withdrawing troops by July 2011. During a televised speech delivered at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Obama explained that his plan–the result of three months of intensive debate–aimed to meet three goals: to deny al-Qaeda a safe haven; reverse the Taliban’s momentum, and strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government.
The speech left Rep. Robert Scott (D-Virginia) with many questions, such as whether strengthening the Afghan government is even a “reasonably achievable goal.” Afghanistan is notorious, he said, for its inability to be a united nation.
“The idea that you’ll have a government that can actually govern is problematic,” said Scott. “And where’s the evidence that local security forces can actually be trained?” If, he asks, they haven’t been able to be properly trained during the eight years the war has already lasted, how can they be trained in 18 months?
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) expressed skepticism over the 18-month timetable and the cost. The estimated $30 billion is a hefty amount for lawmakers to swallow when faced with what they view to be more pressing domestic issues.
“[Obama] said that by 2011 we’ll begin to transfer the security responsibility to the Afghans, depending on what’s happening on the ground, so we have no assurances,” Waters said, adding that the cost is “just mindboggling to us.”
Lawmakers would prefer that the U.S. wind down in Afghanistan and redirect those funds to its domestic agenda.
A Gallup poll taken after Obama’s speech found that 48% of Americans believe the United States is likely or certain to reach its goals, while 45% believe the opposite is true.