2016 Candidates and Congress React to President Obama's Afghanistan Announcement

PHOTO: President Barack Obama speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Oct. 15, 2015.Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo
President Barack Obama speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Oct. 15, 2015.

Presidential candidates and members of Congress immediately offered their opinions on President Obama’s plan unveiled today to extend the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and increase the number of troops in the country through 2016.

Some Republicans as well as Democrats offered qualified support for increasing troop numbers, but even some of those still criticized the Obama administration for its Afghanistan strategy.

2016 Candidates

Some GOP presidential candidates expressed approval of the proposal, but were not completely satisfied. Jeb Bush said in a statement that he supports troop increases but thinks the president is not doing enough to carry out the vision of military commanders.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told radio host Michael Smerconish that the president's decision was the "right thing to do." And Florida Sen. Marco Rubio wrote that he "welcomed the President's decision," but disagreed with what he characterized as a premature decision to announce another withdrawal before the end of his presidency.

By contrast, Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee released much stronger statements against the proposal, criticizing Obama for what they view is a failed Afghanistan policy.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders has declined to comment so far, and Hillary Clinton, who is campaigning in Texas, has not yet commented.

Congress

In Congress, Republican reactions were similar to their party members on the campaign trail. House Speaker John Boehner said President Obama was simply delaying the implementation of a broader strategy, inevitably leaving it to his successor. Boehner also criticized the president for calling for an increase in troops but threatening to veto a defense policy bill.

"President Obama needs to finally lay out the broad, overarching strategy needed to defeat our terrorist enemies and protect the United States,” Boehner said in a statement.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, like Rubio, maintained President Obama is making a premature decision about the number of troops, and should keep the current number of troops in Afghanistan for the rest of his term.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi did not outright endorse the proposal, noting the president's "utmost caution," but she also inserted a reminder about the bravery of U.S. troops and the need to continue to bring them home.

“I appreciate the President informing the public this morning about his intentions to maintain a U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan after 2016," Pelosi wrote in a statement. Clearly, the President sees a vital security need that requires the continued presence of American troops. I look forward to a high-level briefing on the necessity of these steps when Congress returns to session."

Sen. John McCain, one of the first to comment, wrote in a statement that 5,500 troops is only partially adequate to complete the two foundations of the United States' role in Afghanistan: counterterrorism and training Afghan forces.

"The bottom line is that 5,500 troops will only be adequate to conduct either the counterterrorism or the train and advise mission, but not both. Our military commanders have said that both are critical to prevent Afghanistan from spiraling into chaos," McCain wrote.