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GOP hawks: Slowing drawdown a ‘step in the right direction’

GOP hawks: Slowing drawdown a ‘step in the right direction’
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Republican Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainEx-McSally aide pleads guilty to stealing over 0K in campaign funds DOJ: Arizona recount could violate civil rights laws Cheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women MORE (Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMcConnell safe in power, despite Trump's wrath Lindsey Graham: GOP can't 'move forward without President Trump' House to advance appropriations bills in June, July MORE (S.C.) say they are “encouraged” by reports that the Obama administration may slow the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

“If these reports are true, this would be a welcome step in the right direction, one supported by our nation’s top military commanders given the conditions on the ground,” McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Graham said in a joint statement.

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However, the pair remains ”concerned that the administration appears intent on maintaining President Obama’s calendar-driven deadline to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year. Such a course would invite the same disaster we have seen in Iraq: a vacuum filled by instability and terror that would ultimately threaten the United States.”

The Associated Press reported that the president could ditch his long-held plan to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 5,500 by the end of the year, instead leaving roughly 10,000 to help Afghan forces carry out special operations and prevent the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from gaining a foothold.

Gen. John Campbell, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has advocated for slowing the pace of the troop withdrawal, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter suggested during a congressional hearing earlier this month that the administration could pump the brakes on the drawdown.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will visit the White House later this month, potentially giving the president the opportunity to announce a slower troop withdrawal.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) last month Ghani told a congressional delegation that he wanted the number of U.S. troops in the country left “flat” through 2015.

“History will judge President Obama’s legacy not by the day we leave Afghanistan, but by what we leave behind," McCain and Graham said.

"Continuing to train, advise, and assist the Afghan security forces and to meet our mutual counterterrorism objectives is critical to sustaining Afghanistan’s security and protecting the United States," they added.