Key Dems back plan to slow Afghan drawdown

Key Dems back plan to slow Afghan drawdown
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Top Democrats are applauding President Obama's decision to slowdown the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.  

"We cannot afford to see Afghanistan spiral back into lawlessness and re-emerge as a terrorist safe haven," said Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father Erik Prince says meeting with Russian banker unrelated to Trump campaign MORE (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, in a statement released Tuesday. 

"With this modest U.S. troop presence, we can also maintain the intelligence capabilities we need to keep our country safe from plots originating in the region," he added. 

Similarly, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he supported the decision. 

"This delay in the drawdown of our forces will contribute to stability in Afghanistan through this precarious transition period," he said in a statement.

"Our service members, diplomats, and development professionals have sacrificed greatly alongside the Afghan people to achieve hard-fought, but fragile, gains," Menendez continued. "We should maintain this commitment, while demanding an increasingly higher standard of accountability."

House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) added, "I believe President Obama's decision will help the Afghan people in the long run."

Obama announced Tuesday afternoon that he would allow 9,800 U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan through the end of 2015, a departure from his original plan to halve that by the end of the year.

But the president said he was sticking by his plan to withdraw all but a 1,000-strong embassy protection force from the country by the end of next year.

Republican defense hawks had long called for slowing down the withdrawal, amid continued instability in Afghanistan and the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

GOP lawmakers on Tuesday praised Obama's decision but also pressed him to delay the 2016 withdrawal deadline.

"This is the right decision in the effort to improve stability in the region and should signal a continued flexibility based upon circumstances on the ground," said Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.).  

Military and defense experts also welcomed the decision, which was requested by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who is in Washington this week along with Afghanistan's Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah. 

"Slowing the withdrawal timeline makes sound military sense," said retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno and Nora Bensahel, distinguished practitioner in residence and distinguished scholar in residence at the School of International Service at American University, respectively.

"This policy change also meets immediate Afghan concerns and subtly acknowledges some lessons of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq," they wrote in an op-ed on the War on the Rocks website.

Iraq saw a spike in sectarian violence after the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops.

However, they also said the move only delays the decision on the U.S. presence to next year.

"In 2016, Obama will face a very tough choice: stay true to his goal of ending U.S. involvement in the Afghan war, or re-think his strategy in light of threats that almost assuredly will still dominate the entire region," they wrote. 

"But for now, keeping U.S. troops at their current levels and then re-evaluating future plans is the prudent choice."

-- Updated at 6:15 p.m.