Democrats Respond To Bush's Meager Troop Withdrawal
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)
“President Bush, Senator McCain and Senate Republicans are dangerously out of touch about Afghanistan and Pakistan. Given the increasingly violent situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I am stunned that President Bush has decided to bring so few troops home from Iraq and send so few resources to Afghanistan.
“As Democrats have been saying for years and as I saw with my own eyes last month, violence in Afghanistan has surged because Bush-McCain Republicans have all but ignored the true central front of the war on terror while keeping the bulk of our troops tied down in Iraq.
“Our intelligence agencies tell us that the next homeland attack will be planned by al Qaeda, based along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. And with Thursday marking seven years that Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri have been on the loose since 9/11, today’s announcement by President Bush brings them no closer to justice.
“Senator Obama and Democrats know that America will be more secure only once we responsibly end the war in Iraq and return to the real fight to defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban.”
Senator John Kerry (D-MA)
“It is clear from today’s speech that President Bush still doesn’t get it. Nearly seven years after 9/11, he stubbornly maintains that Iraq is the central front in the war against al Qaeda when our own intelligence tells us that the terrorists have been flocking to a reconstituted safe haven along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
“The President’s announcement that by the end of this year he will be sending just one single Marine battalion to Afghanistan is woefully insufficient given the deteriorating situation there, and far short of the three additional brigades that our commanders in Afghanistan have said they urgently need. It is shocking that a President who claims to heed the advice of his military leaders would ignore their pleas to send significant additional troops to the very region where the terrorists responsible for 9/11 still roam free to plan their next attack.
“The President’s ally in the senate John McCain is even more out of touch with reality about the threats America faces. John McCain has consistently shown the wrong judgment in downplaying the significance of Afghanistan so that he could pursue the war of choice in Iraq. He had his own 'Mission Accomplished' moment when he stood on an aircraft carrier and declared 'Next up, Baghdad!' It’s sadly predictable that McCain remains among the last diehards who still refuse to acknowledge that we need a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq even as the President is negotiating just that with the Iraqi government.”
Senator Carl Levin (D-MI)
“This small reduction in troop levels in Iraq and the continued apparent rejection of any timetable for further reductions is simply a continuation of the Bush Administration’s open-ended commitment in Iraq. It takes the pressure off of the Iraqi leaders to take the political steps essential to ending the conflict.
“Iraqi politicians have failed to take advantage of the reduction in violence to reach a political settlement, which was the stated purposed of the surge. Saying the surge has worked when it hasn’t accomplished its stated purpose sends the wrong message to the Iraqi government.
“In the meantime, the U. S. taxpayers continue to pay for reconstruction projects and economic development projects and even for the salaries of the so-called Sons of Iraq militia – at the same time that the Iraqi government has a surplus of $80 billion in oil revenues that should be used to pay for their own reconstruction and development.”
Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)
"Today, the President announced that he will redeploy 8,000 soldiers out of a total of 146,000 U.S. troops in Iraq over the remainder of this year and early next year. The scheduled replacements for those 8,000 forces will instead head to Afghanistan to respond to the sharply deteriorating circumstances there. I am pleased the President has started to come to grips with the severity of the threat we face in Afghanistan and the need to devote more U.S. troops and resources to what remains the central front in the war on terror.
"But let's be serious. Shifting 8,000 American troops to Afghanistan is wholly inadequate when we see Taliban extremists using sanctuary bases in Pakistan to increase attacks on U.S. and NATO forces there, when we see the Karzai government struggling to maintain the confidence of the Afghan people, and when we see the Taliban gaining new recruits by the day.
"Against all evidence, President Bush continues to view Iraq as the central front on the war on terror. We have heard him say that over and over again. He refuses to acknowledge al-Qaida established a presence in Iraq only as a by-product of our invasion in 2003. He ignores recent intelligence reports that al-Qaida leaders are sending senior level commanders and new recruits into Afghanistan, not Iraq.
"President Bush disregards the fact that al-Qaida has reconstituted its global headquarters to plan future worldwide attacks of terrorism in the frontier regions of Pakistan, ungoverned territories that remain off-limits to Pakistani military. After September 11, 2001, this President vowed al-Qaida would never again enjoy sanctuary to target the American people. Yet we are seeing it happening again before our very eyes."