Sen. Coons calls for change in U.S. Ebola strategy

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, who recently returned from a trip to Liberia, said Sunday that the Pentagon should avoid prematurely withdrawing U.S. military personnel who are fighting the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

"We can't declare mission accomplished and withdraw too early here," Coons said on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "The raging epidemic that threatened the whole country in September is now down to a few embers scattered across this country but we need a new strategy to adapt to conditions on the ground. Our troops should remain, some of them to the rest of the year, to help make sure that Liberians can transition our emergency Ebola treatment units into community health clinics and transition our high tech military mobile testing labs into Liberian-run local labs so that going forward this epidemic is really brought to an end in Liberia."

Coons said about 1,000 or more of the troops could return home because they have finished their primary missions of building the infrastructure to test for Ebola. But the money that the U.S. continues to spend on the epidemic could be spent more wisely with a change in strategy, he said.

The senator said he will be sending a letter to the Defense Secretary and a briefing memo to the president tomorrow to advocate for a change in posture. "We can spend this money more wisely and make sure we get the job done," he said.

The 2,400 troops of the 101st Airborne Division, who are in West Africa fighting the epidemic, and the doctors and nurses from the Centers for Disease Control and the Uniform Public Health Service "have really turned the corner on the Ebola epidemic in Liberia," said Coons.

"We've got some great news, something about which all Americans can be, should be proud," he said.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.