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Wed May 2, 2012
Yarmuth Praises Obama Afghan Speech, But Policy Questions Remain
After more than a decade of war, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., is pleased President Obama is withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, but the congressman has questions about the policy.
The president made a surprise visit to the foreign country on Tuesday to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Mr. Obama announced the U.S. will have no permanent military bases and that all armed forces will be out of the central Asian country by 2014.
However, the agreement pledges the U.S. will assist the Afghan government with economic development, security and regional cooperation until 2024.
Yarmuth says there are several details left to negotiate and Congress has many more questions, including the additional cost of helping develop the Afghan economy and public institutions.
"We don’t know what kind of commitment we're talking about and what kind of cost would accompany that commitment. We're spending $65 billion a year there right now and I think there’s no question that we can’t afford to spend anywhere near that much on an ongoing basis in an area whose value is very questionable," he says.
Since it was launched on October 7, 2001, the war in Afghanistan has cost the U.S. $443 billion, according to the Congressional Research Office.
And as if to underscore the country's instability furhter, less than two hours after Mr. Obama left Afghan airspace a suicide attacker detonated a bomb that killed seven. Back stateside, a poll conducted by CNN shows that 72 percent of Americans oppose the war in Afghanistan.
The president acknowledge the weary American public, saying it's time to bring the troops home and renew the country domestically while ending the war within a reasonable time frame.
"I recognize that many Americans are tired of war. As President, nothing is more wrenching than signing a letter to a family of the fallen, or looking in the eyes of a child who will grow up without a mother or father," he said. "I will not keep Americans in harm’s way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security. But we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan, and end this war responsibly."
Later this month, a NATO summit will be held in Chicago to address specific issues in the agreement, such as how much funding the U.S. will contribute and what will happen to those bases.
Yarmuth told WFPL he is encouraged the administration is taking these steps, including peace talks with the Taliban because military action alone cannot solve Afghanistan’s problems.
"Ultimately, there is a battle for control of that country from a variety of tribal interests and we have to negotiate and are negotiating with the Taliban to try and get some kind of reconciliation," he says. "Because without that no length of American involvement is going to create the kind of stable county that I think everybody envisions."