WASHINGTON, June 13, 2011 -- In another sign of growing bipartisan concern about American involvement in Afghanistan, one Republican senator on the Foreign Relations Committee says the war is "unsustainable."
"I think all of us who have been in Afghanistan on the ground multiple times know that what we're doing there on the ground is just not sustainable," Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said.
Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates has suggested the troop withdrawals scheduled to begin this summer should be "modest," but Corker joins others in Congress who are looking for a significant draw down of American involvement in Afghanistan -- including scaling back what he called the U.S. "nation-building effort" in Afghanistan.
"We've got this huge nation-building effort under way [and] I think if our citizens saw our footprint in Afghanistan, saw what was happening there from the stand point of all the things we're investing in this in this country, the distortions in its culture -- we've got to change our footprint," Corker said. "This is not a model that we can replicate in other Middle Eastern countries."
Corker was quick to point out that while he felt US efforts in Afghanistan, namely civilian, were unsustainable over the long term, the drawdown should not be carried out "precipitously."
"We all know that our end there is going to be very different than some bastion of western democracy where democratic institutions are flourishing. It's just a different kind of country than that." Corker said. "Our expectations are continually, as they should be, being tamped down. And I think you're going to see a very significant downward trend."
In an interview for ABC News' "Subway Series," Corker also weighed in on the debate over raising the debt ceiling. While it has been raised almost 100 times since it was established in 1917, this time some Republicans are saying it should not be raised again.
But as the nation's debt inches closer to the current limit of $14.3 trillion, Corker says raising it is not a matter of if, but of when.
"The debt ceiling at some point has to be raised," Corker said. "I don't think there's anybody that questions the fact that if we ended up getting in a situation where the U.S. government was sending out IOUs like the state of California did at one point, that ends up creating quite a brand problem for our country."
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling was exceeded in April, but accounting maneuvers (like halting contributions to pension funds) will finance U.S. financial obligations through Aug. 2. Like many of his Republican colleagues, Corker questioned Geithner's timing on a debt ceiling breach.
"We don't know what the date is," Corker said. "I mean any smart treasury secretary would not say three months out Aug. 2 is the deadline. I don't know what the date is. It might be Aug. 2, it might be Aug. 15, it might be Sept. 20. Who knows?"
Corker and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., recently introduced the Commitment to Prosperity (CAP) Act, legislation that gradually enacts a cap on federal spending.
The proposal would limit federal spending at 20.6 percent of the gross domestic product -- the typical level for the past 40 years. The current level is 24.7 percent. According to Corker, that would result in spending reductions of $7.6 trillion over the next decade.
A recent study by the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found Corker's proposal would result in $1.3 trillion in cuts to Social Security and more than $800 billion in cuts to Medicare.
Corker disputed those numbers, but said reducing spending on popular entitlement programs is going to be necessary. When asked if his proposal would translate to major cuts in entitlements, Corker insisted it was necessary.
"Yes, I agree that the Corker CAP would cause Congress to have to do the things that we need to do to be responsible," he said.
Corker emphasized his plan wasn't about spending less but rather reducing projections.
"Are we going to be spending under the Corker CAP less money on Medicare in 2022 than we are today?" he said. "No, we're going slow the growth of it by reforming it, which by the way every thinking person in the world knows that we have to do."