By Mike Lillis - 05/03/11 04:43 PM EDT
Bucking calls from more liberal Democrats, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday the U.S. should not alter its Afghanistan policy in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden.
The Afghanistan offensive was designed not only to root out bin Laden, Hoyer noted, but also to create a stable political environment "that would not then allow the Taliban to return and to have a sanctuary for terrorism."
After a manhunt for a figure dubbed the world’s “most wanted terrorist,” U.S. special forces killed bin Laden in a weekend raid north of the Pakistan capital of Islamabad, President Obama announced Sunday.
The development prompted some liberal Democrats to urge the White House to expedite its plans to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan beginning in July – nearly a decade after they were deployed following the 9/11 attacks on New York City and Washington.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), for instance, called the war in Afghanistan "an epic failure" that has only "emboldened those who hate America instead of defeating them."
"Now that the 9/11 mastermind is gone, it is time to turn a new page," Woolsey said in a short speech Tuesday on the House floor. "It has to begin with a swift move toward military redeployment out of Afghanistan. We cannot continue down this road of permanent warfare.
"I've never, ever felt more strongly that it is time to bring our troops home," she added.
Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), who heads the Democratic Caucus, predicted that bin Laden's death would likely lead to a realignment of U.S. policy in Afghanistan.
"This sends an incredible message around the world," Larson said Tuesday at a short press briefing, "not only in Afghanistan, but in Tunisia and Libya and Bahrain and Yemen and Syria as well."
But Hoyer said bin Laden's demise doesn't automatically create conditions "where the Afghans can maintain their own security" and "provide for a Taliban-free environment."
"I don't see that the administration is going to change its stated policy of reducing very substantially our presence in Afghanistan in the near term," Hoyer said.