In a nationally televised speech last night President Barack Obama announced a gradual drawdown of forces in Afghanistan -- but that wasn't enough for Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. We wrote here yesterday that the differences between the two men on the war were mostly semantic, but Casey put clearer daylight between his ideas and the president's in a post-speech statement:
“Progress made in Afghanistan should allow us to lighten our footprint in the country, accelerate the shift in responsibility to Afghan forces and drawdown a significant number of U.S. troops from the country," he said. "After nearly ten years and a high cost to our troops, their families and the federal budget, the U.S. should shift its role in Afghanistan from a strategy of counterinsurgency towards an increased focus on counterterrorism.
"From my perspective, tonight’s speech leaves some questions unanswered. I have particular concerns about the specifics of the President’s plan including whether this is the right balance to responsibly bring our troops home as fast as militarily feasible. I will raise these issues tomorrow morning in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing with Secretary Clinton and in conversations with military commanders and our civilian leadership when I visit the region later this year.”
It's notable because Casey's public disagreements with the president are rare, but many members on both sides of the aisle are similarly pushing for a bigger drawdown.
Also worth noting: Casey was the only member of the local Congressional delegation to issue a statement after the speech. Much less high-profile presidential utterances typically result in a flood of statements, showing just how tricky politically Afghanistan is -- the speech didn't offer an easy partisan box in which to frame a reaction.
Photo of U.S. troops near Kandahar in 2008 by Reuters' Goran Tomasevic