House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) expressed skepticism Friday about President Obama’s plan to leave 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016.
“I look forward to a high-level briefing on what will be accomplished by doing this,” Pelosi said during an interview with former top Obama adviser David Axelrod, who now runs the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.
Obama’s decision to keep troops deployed in Afghanistan beyond 2016 marks a reversal from his originally stated intention to withdraw all troops from the country except embassy-security personnel. It comes in response to a major Taliban offensive in the country over the past year.
EDITORIAL: In Afghanistan, Obama Starts to Face Reality
“Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be,” Obama said Thursday. “We understood that as we transitioned, that the Taliban would try to exploit some of our movements out of particular areas, and that it would take time for Afghan security forces to strengthen. Pressure from Pakistan has resulted in more al-Qaeda coming into Afghanistan, and we’ve seen the emergence of an [ISIS] presence. The bottom line is, in key areas of the country, the security situation is still very fragile, and in some places there is risk of deterioration.”
#share#Even so, Obama’s decision drew criticism from a former commander who faulted him for ignoring who warned he should leave a larger force in the country. “The security situation in Afghanistan is so far from stable that to pull out all the troops, even for this president, doesn’t make any sense,” retired Army general John Keane told the Washington Times. “He still does not listen to his combat field general, who wanted the current force to remain as is.”
Pelosi’s comments to Axelrod underscore the political pressure Obama faces from congressional Democrats, who have grown increasingly liberal in recent years as the ranks of the party’s moderates have been thinned by retirements and midterm-election defeats. “We trust the president, but there is a strong attitude in our country that we don’t want boots on the ground,” she told Axelrod.
— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.