Obama Afghanistan Speech: Early Reaction

(CBS/ AP)
President Obama delivered his much-anticipated address detailing his new strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan on Tuesday night, and reaction is already pouring in. Below, a sampling:

• Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee chairman, issued a statement saying he is "glad the president will finally provide General McChrystal with the troops he needs."

"If the president remains committed to this crucial fight, Republicans - and the American people - will stand with him," he said. "But sending mixed signals by outlining the exit before these troops even get on the ground undermines their ability to succeed."

• House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the president "articulated a way out of this war with the mission of defeating Al Qaeda and preventing terrorists from using Afghanistan and Pakistan as safe havens to again launch attacks against the United States and our allies."

"The President has offered President Karzai a chance to prove that he is a reliable partner," she said. "The American people and the Congress will now have an opportunity to fully examine this strategy."

• Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell said he supports "the President's decision to follow the advice of Generals Petraeus and McChrystal in ordering a surge of forces into Afghanistan."

"As this surge of forces produces results in security, governance and in capabilities of the Afghanistan Security Forces, we must ensure that the transition of responsibilities is based on conditions, not timelines," he added.

• "I do not support the president's decision to send additional troops to fight a war in Afghanistan that is no longer in our national security interest," said Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold. "It's an expensive gamble to undertake armed nation-building on behalf of a corrupt government of questionable legitimacy. Sending more troops could further destabilize Afghanistan and, more importantly, Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state where al Qaeda is headquartered."

• "I agree with President Obama that it would be a setback for democracy and stability if the Taliban regained power, but I have serious concerns," said Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats. "…why in the midst of a severe recession – with 17 percent of our people unemployed or under-employed and one out of four kids on food stamps – are we going to be spending $100 billion a year on Afghanistan when we have so many pressing needs at home?"

• Sen. John McCain told CBS News' Katie Couric that while he backed the president's new strategy for Afghanistan, he staunchly opposes any effort to set a date for withdrawing U.S. forces.

"Success is what dictates dates for withdrawal and if we don't have that success and we only set an arbitrary date, it emboldens our enemies and disspirits our friends," McCain said.

• Rep. David Obey, the Democratic chair of the House appropriations committee, told Couric that the war must be paid for. President Obama did not specify in the speech how he planned to cover the costs of the troop surge.

"The fact is we've been told all throughout the health care debate that we must pay for every dollar of that bill," Obey said. "Well if that's the case they why should we not also pay for this effort? This effort is not just going to cost $30 billion on top of what we're already spending in Afghanistan – it's going to cost over $90 billion in a year."

• CBS News Chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer said Mr. Obama "took full ownership of the war in Afghanistan" in the speech.

The "Face the Nation" host also questioned Mr. Obama's strategy of setting a timetable for the troops to come home.

"How do you on the one hand say, 'we need to send these troops over there, it's critical, this is in our national security interest to do this'" Schieffer said, "but then say, 'but we're only going to keep 'em there for 18 months.'"

•The Washington Post called the troop decision "correct and courageous."

"…correct because it is the only way to prevent a defeat that would endanger this country and its vital interests; and courageous because he is embarking on a difficult and costly mission that is opposed by a large part of his own party," they wrote.

•And Thomas Ricks of the Center for New American Security said the hard part comes now.

"I have three questions tonight," he wrote. "Can the Afghan government stop being its own worst enemy, doing something about its corruption and abuses? Will the Pakistani government get serious about combating terrorism? And will the president be able to keep the American people behind him as American casualties increase?"