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Jay urges Obama to speed up Afghanistan withdrawal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On Monday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., wrote a letter to President Obama praising him for plans to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan. But Rockefeller believes the process should be speeded up.

"I request that you continue to look at every possible avenue for safely and responsibly bringing our troops home even more expeditiously," wrote Rockefeller, a current member and former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

"I believe strongly that it is time for the bulk of our forces in Afghanistan to come home."

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has also repeatedly requested a more rapid withdrawal of troops from that troubled and divided country.

In his letter, Rockefeller referred to the recent "spate of tragic killings of American soldiers by their Afghan partners.

He also mentioned the anti-American protests in the wake of the "accidental burnings of Korans at Bagram Airfield and the alleged murder of a number of Afghan civilians by a U.S. service member."

Like many other critics of the ongoing conflict, Rockefeller believes Afghan society is so complex and divided that it is very difficult to address the "deep-seated challenges" plaguing that country.

"Those challenges belong to a nation whose complex histories and cultures we will never fully understand," Rockefeller wrote. "It is time to let the Afghan people take ownership of their own future."

Manchin has repeatedly said American funds being used to rebuild Afghanistan would be better spent rebuilding our own infrastructure at home.

Today, our government is spending nearly $2.5 billion in Afghanistan every week - at the same time our domestic programs are being cut in an effort to control the growing federal deficit.

Afghanistan's complex internal politics will outlast the presence of our troops, both senators have argued.

Rockefeller stressed our country's primary interest in Afghanistan should be to protect our own national security -- "namely defeating al Qaida and ensuring that they can never use safe havens in the region as a platform from which to attack us.

"This goal can be reached and achieved with a much smaller military footprint."

Rockefeller praised American military and intelligence officials for their "amazing gains ... in disrupting and depleting al Qaida and its associates in the Taliban.

"But the full transition of this war effort to a new phase of Special Operations Forces and technological superiority is overdue," Rockefeller concluded in his letter urging Obama to speed up the withdrawal of most of our troops.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.

 


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