Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, warned on Sunday against political calculations weighing into the decision over how many troops to withdraw from Afghanistan.
President Obama is soon expected to announce a withdrawal of some troops from that country, in keeping with his pledge to do so in July of this year, following the surge he announced in December 2009. But how many troops to withdraw has been an open question that has drawn debate both inside the administration and within Congress, particularly since the death of Osama bin Laden last month.
"What it seems to me is there's a political solution that's trying to find a military component to it, versus the other way around. We need to apply a military solution to our problem there, and then talk about it to the American public," Rogers said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "And I think this administration's weakness is they want to have those successes. I think they truly do want to keep America safe, but they want to do it politically first and then find the military component. We need to flip that around."
Rogers responded to comments made by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., earlier on "Face the Nation" in which he said military successes, such as the death of bin Laden, mean the U.S. can have significantly fewer troops in the country going forward.
"My view is that the success our troops have had and the great job they've done over the last 10 years, culminating in the elimination of bin Laden, has given us the ability to protect ourselves with fewer troops," Schumer said. "The drones - they are doing a very, very good job. And it seems that we can keep America safe with significantly fewer amounts of troops, using the drones. A mission that involves nation-building - I'm dubious of that. It's very costly in terms of both life and treasure. And we have huge deficit problems here, in terms of the treasure part."
Rogers disagreed with that assessment. "I don't know what he's looking at... We are in a very, very precarious place in Afghanistan right now," he told host Bob Schieffer.
"We shouldn't base [withdrawal] on some political calculation," Rogers added. "We've got a 30,000-troop surge. This is the spring offensive. This is when the Taliban thinks that they rock us back."
Rogers also warned against Afghanistan becoming a "safe haven" once again.
"If our objectives are to mollify political concerns back at home, that's one thing. I think that's a disaster. If it is to actually take Afghanistan off the safe haven list - and remember, this wasn't about Osama bin Laden. It was about Osama bin Laden being able to operate in a safe haven of Afghanistan. And part of that component was the Taliban," he said." "We need to make sure that Afghanistan can defend itself when we leave. If we do anything short of that, I think we do a huge disservice. And guess what. We will be back there in the future. And I think that's a serious mistake."
In the interview, Rogers also weighed in on the U.S. relationship with Pakistan after returning from a visit to the country last week, saying he "more pessimistic coming out of this trip than I have been in the past."
"Pakistan needs to understand that there is no such thing as a good terrorist," he said. "They have played a very dangerous game in the past. They have been helpful to us. They've put their military into the tribal areas and have taken 5,000 casualties, taking out al Qaeda and Taliban targets for us. They've arrested hundreds over this last decade of al Qaeda and Taliban leadership in the settled areas of Pakistan... At the same time, they're playing this very dangerous game of destabilization by having elements of the ISI and the army sympathetic to the Taliban and al Qaeda elements."
As for what to do about the situation, Rogers said it was time to lay out some "benchmarks."
"We have to understand who they are. Pakistan today is an army with a country, not a country with an army. And we have to start dealing with them, I think, in that context," he said. "We have to lay out some benchmarks. And I have been very reluctant to do this in the past, having Congress lay out the benchmarks. I don't see any other way that we are going to continue a working relationship if we don't lay out some benchmarks for Pakistan."
Rogers added: "We're going to have to continue to work with them. They do help us in some ways. But this is incredibly concerning when they continue to have these problems with helping bad guys."