Congress gives Obama's Afghan plans mixed reviews
Updated June 23, 2 p.m. ET
Not unlike the war in Afghanistan, President Obama found himself in something of a no-win situation in announcing his plan to start pulling out U.S. forces.
Some were quick to criticize that he was putting American gains in Afghanistan at risk by withdrawing too many troops too quickly.
Others, including leading members of his own party, were disappointed that his timeline for drawing down the number of American troops was not more rapid.
The president's plan calls for withdrawing 10,000 US troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year. He said all 33,000 of the surge forces deployed starting at the end of 2009, would be out by next summer. That would still leave 68,000 American military personnel in country.
His speech anticipated the criticism that was headed his way.Obama: This is beginning of the end of the Afghanistan war
Transcript of Obama's speech on Afghanistan
CBSNews.com special report: Afghanistan
"Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor of global security and embrace an isolation that ignores the very real threats that we face. Others would have America over-extended, confronting every evil that can be found abroad."
Within minutes of Mr Obama finishing his remarks, expressions of dismay from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi hit reporter's inboxes.
"It has been the hope of many in Congress and across the country that the full drawdown of U.S. forces would happen sooner than the president laid out," said Pelosi. "We will continue to press for a better outcome."
Fellow House Democrat Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut said she supports the president's commitment to ending the war in Afghanistan, but believes "we need to begin a more significant drawdown of our troops now."
"The president's proposal does not go far enough," she said.
On the Republican side, Rep. Howard McKeon of California, said he was "deeply concerned about the aggressive troop withdrawals" Mr. Obama put forward.
McKeon, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he feared the president's timetable for withdrawals "could jeopardize the hard-won gains our troops and allies have made over the past eighteen months."
Those concerns were echoed by Sen. Joe Lieberman, a former Democrat now serving as an Independent.
"I had hoped the president would draw down our forces more cautiously," said Lieberman in a statement. He too worries the "accelerated withdrawal" will put at risk "the substantial gains we have made in Afghanistan."
One of the leading Republicans seeking to unseat Mr. Obama next year expressed concerns about adhering to "an arbitrary timetable" for the withdrawal of U.S troops from Afghanistan.
"This decision should not be based on politics or economics," says GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He said "the significant progress" made there must not be put in jeopardy.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who served both Presidents Bush (43) and Obama as Pentagon chief but who steps down from office at the end of the month, issued a statement of support for the Obama plan.
"It provides our commanders with enough resources, time and perhaps most importantly, flexibility to bring the surge to a successful conclusion," said Gates.
In his speech, Mr. Obama said he was trying to make good on the pledge he delivered in an Address to the Nation 18 months ago at West Point, when he announced he would send a surge of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan but would begin to pull them out in July of '11.
He also reaffirmed his support for the principal U.S. objective in Afghanistan - to stabilize the country and ensure it never again becomes a safe haven for al-Qaeda to use for planning attacks on America.
If it works out the way he hopes, Mr. Obama can stand as a candidate for re-election in November of next year, having brought home 33,000 Americans from Afghanistan. But if the situation there turns sour, it could upend his hopes for a second term.
Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that House Democratic Leader Pelosi emailed a statement to reporters while President Obama was still speaking. The statement was actually sent a couple of minutes after the speech was completed.
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