Pelosi: Afghan troop levels won't turn off liberal voters in 2012

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Sunday that liberal voters will mobilize to reelect President Obama despite his administration’s increased focus on the war in Afghanistan.

“I think that our progressive base, of which I consider myself proudly a part, will turn out for the president,” said Pelosi on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

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Earlier this week Obama announced plans to bring 33,000 troops home by the end of next summer, leaving about 68,000 troops in Afghanistan by the time general elections arrive in November. That is double the number of troops in the country when he was first elected, which raises the question of whether the liberal voting block that helped carry Obama into the White House — and for which the war was a central issue — will show out to support him in 2012.

“He has taken us on a course to end this war. He is finishing the war in Iraq. He is the president. He has a plan, and that's something that we have not had before,” Pelosi added.

The Obama administration received a great deal of heat last year over commentspress secretary Robert Gibbs made to “The Hill” about the inability of the “professional left” to ever be satisfied.

“They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality,” said Gibbs at the time.

Pelosi echoed those comments on Sunday, but said the perpetual dissatisfaction of the liberal voter base was a positive characteristic and a necessary one to help spur changes that might not otherwise come about. 

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“Unless you want to run for president yourself, you are never going to have it all your own way,” said Pelosi. “A base of its nature, God bless the base, is of its nature — dissatisfied, persistent, relentless — and that's a good thing.

“The president has a different role. We do too in Congress. But I would hope that the base could influence, if not … influence the decision, and I think they have. The president has taken out more troops than some others wanted him to do.”

The military leadership was dissatisfied with Obama’s decision this week to scale down troops in Afghanistan, saying that it was riskier and “more aggressive.”

“The ultimate decision was a more aggressive formulation, if you will, in terms of the time line … than what we had recommended,” said Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, agreed, saying: “It was more aggressive and it has more risk than you know I was originally prepared to — than what I recommended.”

Still, Pelosi said she would have liked to have seen Obama scale back a greater number of troops on a faster timeline.

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“I had hoped that they could take more troops out sooner for a number of reasons,” she said. “The lives and limbs of our precious treasure, first and foremost, the cost to the taxpayer, but also the message to the Afghan people, the Afghan government that they have to do their part of this and the sooner the better. And the sooner they do, the sooner our troops will come home.”

With the economy continuing to roil and jobless rates remaining high, it’s difficult to predict how much of a role the U.S.’s involvement in Afghanistan will play in the 2012 elections. 

But Obama's announcement this week came as the Pew Research Center unveiled a new poll showing a majority of Americans — for the first time — want all U.S. forces removed from Afghanistan immediately.

In a pollconducted for “The Hill,” 37 percent of voters said the continued presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan makes no impact on national security, while another 17 percent said it makes the United States less safe. By contrast, 36 percent said the United States is safer because forces are in Afghanistan.