Iowa delegation reacts to Obama’s Afghan plan

Both of Iowa’s U.S. Senators and four of the five Iowans who serve in the U.S. House issued statements Tuesday night following the president’s speech outlining his plan for Afghanistan.  Over the past two months, Radio Iowa has done a series of stories with the Iowa congressional delegation to check their views about the Afghan war.   You can read those here:  a story with Grassley posted yesterday; a story here with Grassley and Harkin based on comments they made during telephone conference calls with reporters in mid-November; a story here with House Armed Services Committee member Loebsack after he returned from a trip overseas to visit the troops; a story here with Braley with thoughts about Afghanistan he aired during a discussion on IPTV’s Iowa Press;  a story here from a Radio Iowa interview of Boswell, and here for a story with Latham from comments he made recently on IPTV’s Iowa Press. 

Read the statements issued Tuesday night, following the president’s speech, below:

Senator Chuck Grassley released the following statement after President Barack Obama tonight outlined his strategy for the war in Afghanistan.
“President Obama campaigned on the importance of Afghanistan over Iraq and in March announced a strategy for the U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.  He fired the General who was in charge and put General McChrystal in place to move his strategy forward.  So, one could only assume that he would follow through on his own promises made over the last year.

“There is a lot of anxiety from the American people about the president’s plan.  Before September 11, I had strong reservations about any large scale involvement in this region of the world.  I think my vote against the first Gulf War indicates that.  But, September 11 and incidents since then such as Najibullah Zazi and Fort Hood have taught us that we are not immune.  What’s going on in the Middle East is an indication as to what can happen in our own backyard.   

“There’s no question that, at this time, we need to give our troops the resources to succeed.  They have sacrificed time and time again in the name of freedom.  But, it’s time the president rethink the 12.5 percent increase in domestic spending during this time of war.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) released the following statement this evening in reaction to President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan:

“Faced with an incredibly complex problem, tonight the President laid out a strategy for an endgame that unites our civilian, military, economic and humanitarian capabilities. President Obama laid out a timeline of eighteen months, which I hope gives the Afghan government and people a chance to take control of their destiny.

“This Administration inherited not one but two dangerous, difficult wars, and I appreciate the careful thinking and planning that went into this decision. There remain a number of questions, however, one of the most important being how we pay for this. I wish I had heard the President take a firm stand on raising the necessary revenues to pay for this endeavor.”

Washington, DC – Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) released the following statement tonight in response to President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan.

“In September, I sent a bipartisan letter to President Obama outlining many of my concerns about the situation in Afghanistan and stating my strong belief that we should not commit more troops to Afghanistan without a clearly defined exit strategy. As the Iowa National Guard prepares to deploy more than 3,000 soldiers to Afghanistan, we owe it to them and their families to have a comprehensive strategy that addresses fundamental military, political and economic challenges in Afghanistan and the surrounding region.

“I look forward to reading the specific details of the proposal laid out by President Obama in order to work with my colleagues to determine the best way forward for the people of the United States and Afghanistan.”

Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA) issued the following statement in response to the President’s unveiling of the new Afghanistan strategy.

“The President has unveiled an outline for his Afghanistan strategy and I plan to review the President’s decision carefully in the coming days and weeks. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I look forward to speaking with our military leaders and experts, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, General Stanley McChrystal, and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry.”

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Leonard Boswell released this statement following the President’s address on the war in Afghanistan.

“Tonight, President Obama announced a recommitment to Afghanistan and the global fight on terrorism. The President’s plan to immediately deploy up to 30,000 troops to serve the dual purpose of stopping the momentum of the Taliban and degrade their capacities, while also training Afghan national security troops to take over the lead security role in Afghanistan.”

“I am pleased that the President has made it clear that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan will not be an open-ended nation building exercise. The 18-month timeline is targeted to allow U.S. and NATO forces to expand and better train the Afghan armed forces to deal with insurgents and Al Qaeda and require the Afghan government to meet benchmarks along the way. The President has also promised a larger civilian training component to target corruption and improve governance in the Afghan government.”

“I am proud of the troops who have served and continue to serve abroad and at home, and my heart goes out to their loved ones. There are no easy solutions in war, but President Obama’s plan provides a clear strategy to transfer control to Afghan forces and to bring our men and women home.”

WASHINGTON, DC – Iowa Congressman Tom Latham issued the following statement on Tuesday night following President Obama’s address regarding American involvement in Afghanistan:

“Tonight, more than three months after receiving an assessment and set of urgent recommendations from his top general in Afghanistan, President Obama has finally announced his strategy on how to proceed. It is my hope that, as this new strategy is carried out and the situation in Afghanistan evolves, future requests from our generals on the ground will be met in a responsive fashion.

“I visited Afghanistan once again this February, and I listened to the frank evaluations of our generals and soldiers there.  I understand the difficulty of the mission and the sacrifice our country is asking of our men and women in uniform, including the 3,500 members of the Iowa National Guard currently preparing for deployments in Afghanistan.  But I also understand the danger of allowing the country to become a safe haven for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

“I applaud President Obama’s increased commitment to training Afghan forces to provide peace and security for the country’s population.  The Afghan national army will have to play an increasingly prominent role to ensure the long-term stability of the country.  Additionally, I remain opposed to setting an arbitrary withdrawal date that would allow the enemy to simply wait for us to go home before reasserting its presence in the region.

“Our armed forces continue to perform heroically, and I thank them and their families for their incredible sacrifice.  I urge my colleagues in Congress to join me in an effort to make sure our troops have everything they need to achieve victory and come home safely.” 

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.