Rockefeller calls for troops to leave Afghanistan - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Rockefeller calls for troops to leave Afghanistan

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Days after President Barack Obama announced U.S. troops in Afghanistan would take on a support role by the end of 2013, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is calling on the president to bring soldiers home sooner.

In a letter to the president, Rockefeller asks him to "look at every possible avenue for safely and responsibly bringing our troops home even more expeditiously."

"I have long had, and continue to have, grave concerns about our military commitment to Afghanistan," Rockefeller wrote. "Over the past weeks, the spate of tragic killings of American soldiers by their Afghan partners, combined with the widespread anti-American protests that followed the accidental burning of Korans at Bagram Airfield and the alleged murder of a number of Afghan civilians by a U.S. service member underscore the daunting complexities of our forces' efforts in Afghanistan."

Rockefeller went on to say in the letter that those examples highlight "a harsh reality that persists in Afghanistan." Despite military successes, Rockefeller said, no amount of money, time or heroism can address Afghanistan's deep-seated challenges.

"Those challenges belong to a nation whose complex histories and cultures we will never fully understand, and it is time to let the Afghan people take ownership of their own future," Rockefeller wrote.

He went on to point out that local Afghan populations will long outlast any military presence and "will ultimately determine the fate of the country."

"We should certainly engage these stakeholders where we can, as your administration has worked hard to do," Rockefeller wrote, "but our mission in Afghanistan is focused first and foremost on the protection of U.S. national security interests—namely defeating Al Qa'ida and ensuring that they can never use safe havens in the region as a platform from which to attack us. This goal can be pursued and achieved with a much smaller military footprint."  

Rockefeller said he applauded "the amazing gains that our military and intelligence professionals have made" under Obama's leadership, but a transition from war effort to a new phase is "overdue." Rockefeller also cited budget concerns, writing that the nearly $2.5 billion spent on the Afghanistan war effort each week is "neither sustainable nor advisable."

Obama has Rockefeller's "full-fledged support" in withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and returning them stateside "as quickly as possible."

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