Senators Demand Answers as White House Mulls Post-War Strategy
(WASHINGTON) -- Capitol Hill lawmakers want to know what kind of residual force the Obama administration plans to leave behind in Afghanistan after 2014 even as a New York Times story reports the White House is considering a "zero option" similar to Iraq.
James Dobbins, the State Department’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday that he doesn't see the U.S. completely abandoning the country after what will be 13 years of war.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has thrown a monkey wrench into the process by breaking off talks with Washington about a post-war plan.
Although Dobbins told the panel, "Without an agreement on our presence in Afghanistan, we would not remain," he added, "We do not believe that is the likely outcome of these negotiations. The Afghans actually need us to stay. Most Afghans want us to stay, and we have promised to stay."
However, senators were clearly frustrated by the lack of a concrete policy.
New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, who chairs the committee, said, "For our part, I believe that President Obama should signal to the Afghans and our allies what the post-2014 U.S. troop presence will look like governed by a security agreement."
Admitting that it will be up to Karzai to make the final determination, Menendez nonetheless stressed, "The United States needs to make clear once again that we are committed to a long-term partnership with Afghanistan. Period."
Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker added that the U.S. shouldn't worry so much about the present Afghan administration because Karzai can't run for reelection next year.
Corker went on to say, "I am asking this administration to look beyond Karzai -- he is going to be gone in April -- to look at our national interest, to make some decision with clarity and show some world leadership."
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