President Obama supported a flexible timeline for withdrawing troops from Iraq.
Now some of his fellow Democrats like Senators Russ Feingold, Diane Feinstein, and Byron Dorgan are calling for the same in Afghanistan.
While the President didn’t commit to that, he did say – for the first time, I believe –that he was “skeptical” about sending more troops to Afghanistan.
Here’s our exchange:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Afghanistan is a big issue facing the country right now.
OBAMA: That is a big issue. That's worth talking about.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You were for a flexible time line in Iraq. Some people now are saying that's exactly what should happen in Afghanistan if the same conditions hold. Do you agree with that?
OBAMA: Here's what I think. When we came in, basically, there had been drift in our Afghan strategy. Everybody acknowledges that. And I ordered a top to bottom review. The most important thing I wanted was us to refocus on why we're there. We're there because al Qaeda killed 3,000 Americans and we cannot allow extremists who want to do violence to the United States to be able to operate with impunity.
Now, I think we've lost — we lost that focus for a while and you started seeing a — a classic case of mission creep where we're just there and we start taking on a whole bunch of different missions.
I wanted to narrow it. I did order 21,000 additional troops there to make sure that we could secure the election, because I thought that was important. That was before the review was completed. I also said after the election I want to do another review. We've just gotten those 21,000 in. General McChrystal, who's only been there a few months, has done his own assessment.
I am now going to take all this information and we're going to test whatever resources we have against our strategy, which is if by sending young men and women into harm's way, we are defeating al Qaeda and — and that can be shown to a skeptical audience, namely me — somebody who is always asking hard questions about deploying troops, then we will do what's required to keep the American people safe.
Watch our exchange HERE.
- George Stephanopoulos