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Boehner: U.S. withdrawal in Afghanistan should not be based on "political calculations"

U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of NATO and International Security Assistance Force troops in Afghanistan, left, talks with House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday, April 19, 2011, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo/ U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Joshua Treadwell

Following a two-day trip to Afghanistan this week, House Speaker John Boehner called on President Obama to "explain" how withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July would not "undermine the tenuous progress we've made thus far."

Boehner, visiting the country for the first time since being elected Speaker, met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. General David Petraeus, and was accompanied by Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Mike Conaway (R-TX), Tom Rooney (R-FL), Joe Heck (R-NV), and Dan Boren (D-OK).

"During our meeting with General Petraeus, he noted that security gains have been made in Afghanistan, but that they are fragile and reversible," Boehner said in a statement after his return. "Any drawdown of U.S. troops must be based on the conditions on the ground, not on political calculations."

"If the Obama Administration insists on beginning to draw down troops in July, it must explain how the pace and scope of such a move will not undermine the tenuous progress we've made thus far," Boehner added. "To date, it has not done so."

Withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is scheduled to begin in July 2011, but some argue that the drawdown is preemptive, and will lead to a reverse in any progress made there.

In a House floor debate last month, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) argued that "completing our mission in Afghanistan is essential to keeping our homeland safe." To leave "before we finish the job is to pave the way for the next 9/11" and provide al Qaeda with "a sanctuary from which they could mount fresh strikes at the west with virtual immunity," she added.

Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said in a March congressional hearing that while the U.S. had made significant progress in the war, those achievements were "fragile" and "reversible," and would require continued support from Congress and the American people.

Nevertheless, he said he supported beginning to withdraw some troops in July, arguing it would send a message of urgency to Afghan government, and that "it undercuts the narrative of the Taliban that we will be there forever."

"I think it is logical to talk both about getting the job done... and beginning the transition and responsible reductions," he said.

Boehner, in his remarks, argued that the U.S. should not be bound by "arbitrary deadlines."

"We must remain steadfast in our commitment to the counterinsurgency strategy our commanders on the ground have put in place and to ensuring its success, rather than focusing on meeting arbitrary deadlines for withdrawal," he said. "Succeeding in Afghanistan is critically important to the safety and security of our country."

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