President Obama gave a long-awaited address Tuesday night at West Point Military Academy on his plan for the war in Afghanistan. It was a speech bound to disappoint and it did, it seems, at least partly on both the left and the right. Among the responses from the Colorado delegation in D.C., Sen. Mark Udall, one of the most supportive of the president’s vision, also felt obliged at one point to respond in advance to constituent dissent. “We must acknowledge the complex choices we face. It is important for us all to keep in mind that no one has all the right answers.”
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who also offered support for the president’s strategy, said he planned to travel to Afghanistan in the coming months to gain additional insight of his own.
Full video of the speech and a roundup of responses after the jump.
“I want to speak to you tonight about our effort in Afghanistan, the nature of our commitment there, the scope of our interests and the strategy my administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion… To address these important issues, it’s important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight,” the president began. The speech was an extended explanation of why Obama ordered 30,000 more troops into the theater.
Sen. Michael Bennet
“I opposed the war in Iraq because I believed it was the wrong war at the wrong time, and because it was diverting resources from our efforts in Afghanistan. We are still dealing with the consequences of that decision.
“Going forward, our purpose and mission in Afghanistan must be absolutely clear. We need a strategy that stops terrorists from using Afghanistan and Pakistan as a base for their activities, protects the border between the two countries, and allows us to bring our troops home as quickly as possible.
“Tonight, the President took a step in the right direction. I have additional questions on the size and scope of the increase, and I look forward to hearing directly from his military advisors on the details of the plan.”
Sen. Mark Udall
“President Obama inherited a bad situation in Afghanistan – made worse by eight years of neglect and under-resourcing. There are no easy or risk-free choices and the President knows that. Tonight, he made a reasoned case for a strategy to stabilize the region and begin to transition our forces out of Afghanistan.
“Our goal is to stop terrorists, and Afghanistan and Pakistan are the front lines of our global war against Islamic extremism. Afghanistan is where Al Qaeda plotted its 9/11 attacks against us. We can’t afford for it to become a haven for terrorists to attack Americans again – and we can’t afford for nuclear weapons in Pakistan to fall into the wrong hands.
“I’ve said from the beginning that our focus in the war against Islamic extremism needs to be Afghanistan. President Obama has taken time to develop a new strategy, and I think we need to pursue it because it’s the best of the imperfect options available.
“As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I still have questions I will continue to ask – starting with a request for more details about our plans to work with and train Afghan forces as well as our ability to field additional troops given our commitments in Iraq and elsewhere.
“General McChrystal has said that the best approach to take in Afghanistan is one of ‘humility,’ meaning we must acknowledge the complex choices we face. It is important for us all to keep in mind that no one has all the right answers. As we move forward, I intend to keep our mission in Afghanistan focused on achievable and specific goals that rely not only on our military power but on diplomacy and civilian expertise.”
Rep. Mike Coffman
“Unfortunately, the President’s speech was more about an exit strategy than a winning strategy. History teaches us that weakness invites aggression and the President showed weakness tonight by explicitly stating a fixed timeline for withdrawal, irrespective of the conditions on the ground. As a Marine Corps combat veteran, I understand first hand that setting an artificial timeline will only embolden our enemies who now know exactly how long it will take to wait out our limited commitment to finishing the job.”
Rep. Diana DeGette
“I am pleased that President Obama has laid out a clear strategy to end the war in Afghanistan. It is in our national security interest to stabilize the country and prevent terrorists from using Afghanistan as a base for terrorist activity. Accelerating the recruitment and training of Afghan security forces will allow Kabul to take control and responsibility for its own security more quickly. Unfortunately, these goals were long-delayed when the previous Administration was distracted by a war in Iraq.
“Before I agree to support funding the President’s increased troop levels in the 2011 budget, I will closely examine the efficacy of his plan to ensure that it is stabilizing Afghanistan, and preparing the country to defend itself.”
Rep. Betsy Markey
“I agree with the President that the status quo in Afghanistan is unsustainable both for the Afghan people and for our own country.
“We must increase pressure to disrupt and dismantle Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but the President was vague in his proposal to hand over control of security to Afghan forces by 2011, and I have concerns about how that can be accomplished.
“I will closely examine the details of his plan before Congress votes to fund the President’s request for increased troop levels.”
Rep. Ed Perlmutter
“I thank the President for laying out his ideas on increasing troop levels in Afghanistan. I know his decision was made after much deliberation and input from experts on all sides of this situation.
“This action marks a momentous time for our country as we work to rebuild our own economy, put Americans back to work, and provide quality, affordable healthcare to millions of uninsured.
“Since the tragedies of 9-11, I always thought the real global War on Terror was against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the Afghanistan region. I believe we took our eye off the ball in Iraq and never finished the job in Afghanistan.
“I am concerned about our military staying too long in Afghanistan. However, I believe we need to work with a strong multinational coalition to do what we can to help the Afghani people secure the region and begin to rebuild a stable democracy. We need to define benchmarks for success, gather more international support and place more responsibility on the Afghan government to deny Al Qaeda a safe haven.
“I want to continue meeting with experts on these issues and will travel to Afghanistan in the coming months to see for myself the conditions in the region.
“Tonight, the President presented a thoughtful and responsible plan for how we can work towards a more stable region and defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda. It’s our prosperity and strength at home that will continue to help us lead the world in global security and stability.
“I will work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure our troops have the resources they need to do the important job we are asking them to do.”
Rep. Jared Polis
“President Obama delivered a powerful speech this evening and I commend his commitment to ending the war in Afghanistan. However, I do not believe there can be a military solution to this conflict and I do not support sending a single additional American soldier there, much less 30,000 new troops.
“We need less troops, not more, to end this war. Earlier this year I traveled to Afghanistan and saw first-hand the very real challenges that our eight-year presence there has created. Adding more combat troops is not a formula for peace.
“As I’ve said before, our resources could be better spent on diplomacy and targeted security operations. I believe that the best way to support our brave men in women in uniform is to bring them home as soon as possible.”
The Colorado Independent has asked for statements from Reps. John Salazar and Doug Lamborn. We will post them as they arrive.