Entries in Troops (20)


Romney Calls Panetta’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Announcement ‘Misguided’

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- Mitt Romney has offered harsh criticism of a plan outlined by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to possibly withdraw U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan in 2013, calling the administration’s decision to announce its military plans to the world “misguided” and “naive.”

“The president’s mistakes, some of them are calculated on a philosophy that’s hard to understand and, sometimes, you scratch your head and say: How can he be so misguided and so naive?” said Romney during a visit to a Brady Industries warehouse, where janitorial supplies lined the shelves.

“Today, his secretary of defense unleashed such a policy,” said Romney. “The secretary of defense said that on a day certain, the middle of 2013, we’re going to pull out our combat troops from Afghanistan.”

Panetta told reporters en route to a NATO meeting in Brussels that the administration hopes to remove combat troops by 2013 and continue a training and advisory role with Afghan forces through 2014.

“He announced that. He announced that. So the Taliban hears it, the Pakistanis hear it, the Afghan leaders hear it,” said Romney. “Why in the world do you go to the people that you’re fighting with and tell them the date you’re pulling out your troops? It makes absolutely no sense.”

“His naivete is putting in jeopardy the mission of the United States of America and our commitments to freedom,” he said. “He is wrong. We need new leadership in Washington.”

Romney has said repeatedly on the campaign stump that his own decision regarding withdrawing troops from Afghanistan would be based on advice from generals on the ground.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Calls Troops on Christmas Eve

Pete Souza/Official White House Photo(KAILUA, Hawaii) -- In keeping with tradition, President Obama called 10 service members, two from each branch of the military, to “wish them a happy holiday and thank them for their service” Saturday night, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on the trip.

The troops are stationed around the world, he said, and the calls were placed from his vacation rental home in Kailua, Hawaii.

The president's vacation was delayed for six days while he wrestled with Congress over the extension of the payroll tax cut.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Troops Reflect on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- For many gays and lesbians in the military, the end of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring them from serving openly has put an end to the distraction of living in fear, allowing them -- as one said -- to "focus on the mission."

It was a year ago this past week that President Obama signed into law a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."  Although that ended the legal underpinnings for the ban on openly gay troops, it was only on Sept. 20 that the nearly 18-year-old policy was fully repealed.

For many of the thousands of gay and lesbian troops who will continue to serve in the military, it was a major burden lifted from their shoulders.

"Now I don't have to worry about someone trying to end my career," Staff Sgt. Steve Proctor told ABC News' Jake Tapper. "It's very important to me to be a soldier and also to be a leader of these soldiers, especially other soldiers that are gay like me."

Proctor said one of the biggest misconceptions he dealt with were doubts about whether he'd be able to effectively lead troops despite his sexual orientation.  "It was a struggle," said the 27-year-old staff sergeant, who's served for almost 10 years. "I had to make sure no one knew about it for the simple fact that if they did find out, I didn't want someone to try kicking me out."

Capt. Eric Sattleberg said that before the repeal of the policy, he was forced to lead a double life in the military. For the past decade he chose to hide under the umbrella of "being straight" so his homosexuality was never in question. He'd visit strip clubs with other soldiers and partake in conversations pertaining to relationships with women.

"I didn't want to come in and battle that, battle that fight with being gay in the military," he said.

Sattleberg wasn't the only one living an alternate life. Petty Officer Erin Jones said that before the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," her experience in the military was "sickening."

"I would go and date other men and I would go out with guys and spend a lot of time with guys trying to make it look like I was straight," she said. "I had a huge battle with my sexuality for a long time."

Jones said a lesbian couple serving with her was forced to separate, and she knew of another lesbian couple who was kicked out. Fearing her superiors would figure out the truth about her sexual orientation, Jones said she would even try to have relationships with men on her base.

Jones told ABC News that a lot of soldiers she knows were angry about the focus placed on repealing "don't ask, don't tell."

"We're in a war, we don't need to focus on gays being allowed to serve," she said.

But she said that for her, at least, putting an end to the ban meant an end to one of the major distractions she faced. "Since the laws changed, we can focus on the mission and we don't have to worry about being strung up for who we are," Jones said.

She said it was a relief, mostly because now soldiers won't have to endure the struggle that she and other homosexual soldiers lived through. "I wanted to talk about my girlfriend, but I would have to change the pronoun and have to say 'him,'" she said. "It sickened me inside to have to do that."

For other soldiers, though, the transition wasn't as smooth.

Proctor broke the news to one of his best friends and said the friendship ended soon after.  "One of my best friends in the army of 10 years and I told him," Proctor said. He also said he didn't regret his decision because he was tired of fighting with his identity.

"I thought I could trust him, he's denied that, some people aren't going to accept you for who you are, we all know that," Proctor said.

For Proctor and several other soldiers, the repeal lifted a heavy weight off their shoulders. Proctor says many soldiers may still not open up due to their personal lives at home, religion, or that they still haven't seen higher ranking soldiers coming out.

"We have to show the standard that we can still lead troops, I am gay as I want to be and you can do the same thing," Proctor said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


GOP Contenders Lambast US Troop Withdrawal from Iraq

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Veering away from the economy and other domestic issues that have been their chief focus, the GOP presidential contenders on Sunday blasted a slated Dec. 31 pull-out of all but 150 U.S. troops from Iraq as a capitulation to the Iraqi government that imperils the still tenuous region.

Referring to the Iraqi government's refusal to shield any remaining U.S. troops from prosecution in Iraqi courts, Michele Bachmann said on Sunday that the Iraqis "disrespected" the very country that had overthrown their former dictator, Saddam Hussein.

She equated the coming pull-out with being "kicked out," and said Iraq should repay the United States the $700 billion it has spent waging war there.

"They're not a poor country.  They're a wealthy country," the Minnesota Congresswoman said on CBS' Face the Nation.

"I think that they need to do that, because what we will be leaving behind is a nation that is very fragile and will be subject to dominance by Iran and their influence in the region," she said.  "That's not good."

"It's going to leave a big vacuum in Iraq," former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain said on Face the Nation.

"We've lost the battle in Iraq with the Iraqi government," former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said on Face the Nation.  "We've lost this sphere of influence that we had."

Dismissing the GOP attack as disingenuous, Secretary of State Clinton countered on ABC's This Week With Christiane Amanpour that the withdrawal deadline was set before President Obama took office.

"Remember that it was President Bush who set the timetable in motion by agreeing with the Iraqis that all troops would be out by the end of this year," she said.  "And, of course, President Obama promised the American people that the troops would be out by the end of this year."

Despite the Republicans' accusations that the United States would be abandoning Iraq and leaving the door open for Iran to wield its influence there, Clinton said there would still be a strong U.S. presence in the region, and dialogue and support for Iraq would not end.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Gets Troop Drawdown Details

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gary A. Witte, 300th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has presented to the White House the drawdown plan for the 10,000 surge troops he ordered out of Afghanistan by year’s end.

Panetta met with President Obama Wednesday for his weekly meeting where “they discussed the drawdown of Afghan troops, including the first tranche of surge troops by the end of this year,” a senior administration official told ABC News.

In June, President Obama announced the phased withdrawal of the 33,000 surge troops he had ordered into Afghanistan in 2009. Ten thousand were to be out by the end of this year and the remaining 23,000 are scheduled to leave by the end of next September.    

Gen. John Allen, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, recently finished drawing up his recommendation for how the first phase of the drawdown plan should take place. It was this plan that was presented to the president Wednesday.

The drawdown actually began in July of this year when two Army National Guard units were not replaced at the end of their deployments. That was in keeping with President Obama’s announcement in 2009 that the U.S. would begin transitioning security to Afghan security forces in July 2011. That process is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014.

That first installment of troops that left in July numbered between 1,500 to 2,000 troops, so it will be the balance of that number that will be out by December.

Most of the troops out by December will be from units that were scheduled to rotate out by that date and are not being replaced, a Defense Department official said.  They will be mostly combat support forces commonly referred to as enablers.  Additional numbers will come from individual augmentees, service members who deploy without being attached to larger units.

Gen. Allen is following a plan to hold onto the troops for as long as he can until the December deadline. It is a similar strategy that he will undertake for the 23,000 troops coming out next year.   

In an interview with ABC News’ Martha Raddatz last week, Allen said he intends to keep the 23,000 for as long as possible.

“They are going to stay a long time,” he said. “We’ll maintain that number as long as we can.”

Allen believes he will likely request a task force of logisticians that would arrive just before the September 2012 deadline to bring out the remaining troops.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Day After Afghan Troop Announcement, Obama Heads to Fort Drum

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The day after delivering his strategy to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, President Obama will visit troops at Fort Drum in upstate New York, which has sent thousands of soldiers to fight in Afghanistan.

The president will spend time with members of the elite 10th Mountain Division, one of the most frequently deployed divisions to Afghanistan. Obama will also meet privately with Gold Star families who have lost loved ones in combat. More than 1,500 U.S. service members have died in the war in Afghanistan.

There are currently 100,000 U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan. Wednesday night, the president announced that starting next month, he is bringing 10,000 U.S. troops home from Afghanistan by the end of this year and another 23,000 by the end of next summer, several months earlier than originally anticipated.

Thursday evening Obama will pivot to campaign mode in New York City, where he will deliver remarks at three DNC fundraisers, including one to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender supporters.

The president will overnight in Pittsburgh, where on Friday he will deliver a speech on manufacturing and job creation from Carnegie Mellon University.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama's Afghanistan Timetable Gets Mixed Reactions

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gary A. Witte, 300th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment(WASHINGTON) -- Moments after President Obama announced a timetable for the withdrawal of 33,000 troops from Afghanistan over the next 15 months, reaction from lawmakers in the House of Representatives streamed in, ranging from high praise from the top of his party’s Congressional leadership, to criticism that the president is pulling out too quickly, but also complaints that he is not bringing troops home quickly enough.

Inside his own party, the president received the highest praise from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who credited the president for “beginning the process of bringing our troops home and ending the war in Afghanistan” and shifting the focus to rebuilding America.

“It has been the hope of many in Congress and across the country that the full drawdown of U.S. forces would happen sooner than the president laid out -- and we will continue to press for a better outcome.  Concluding this war will enable us to reduce the deficit and focus fuller attention on the priorities of the American people: creating jobs and investing in our nation’s future by building a strong, thriving economy for our children,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement.

On the other side of the spectrum, although still from within the president's own party, Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California said the plan is not nearly aggressive enough.

“This plan withdraws too few troops and takes too long to do it.  We can no longer afford to spend $10 billion a month on a war that is not making us safer at a time when Afghan President Hamid Karzai is calling the United States ‘occupiers,’” Speier said in a statement.  “President Obama should immediately withdraw at least 30,000 troops -- the amount equivalent to the 2009 surge.  The remainder should come home by the end of next year."

Rep. Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence committee, said that he was “concerned about the president’s plan to begin troop withdrawal in Afghanistan” and said President Obama made the wrong decision.

The president also caught grief from a good share of freshmen Republicans.

Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-North Carolina, slammed the president for announcing “to the world his intention to set a deadline for withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan.”

“Less than two months ago, American special forces led one of the most successful missions in modern history to kill Osama Bin Laden,” Ellmers stated.  “The success of this mission was due largely to its secrecy.  But now, the same President who oversaw this mission is giving a speech announcing to our enemies and the world our military strategy."

Rep. Randy Hultgren, who is also a freshman, said in a statement that he disagreed with President Obama’s timetable because it “reduces the U.S. presence more quickly than that suggested by his military advisers.”

House Speaker John Boehner, however, said that while he wants to bring our troops home as quickly as possible, “we must ensure that the gains we’ve made are not jeopardized.”

“It’s important that we retain the flexibility necessary to reconsider troop levels and respond to changes in the security environment should circumstances on the ground warrant," Boehner said.  "Congress will hold the Administration accountable for ensuring that the pace and scope of the drawdown does not undermine the progress we’ve made thus far."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tim Pawlenty Calls Obama's Afghanistan Plan a 'Grave Mistake'

Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- GOP candidate Tim Pawlenty criticized President Obama's decision to bring home 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of next summer as "a grave mistake."

"I thought his speech tonight was deeply concerning," Pawlenty said in an interview with Bill O'Reilly on Fox News Wednesday evening.  "Look how he phrased the outcome of this war: He said we need to end the war 'responsibly.'  When America goes to war, America needs to win.  We need to close out the war successfully, and what that means now is not nation-building.  What it means is to follow General Petraeus' advice and to get those security forces built up to the point where they can pick up the slack as we draw down."

Pawlenty said Obama apparently believes he knows better than Petraeus, who Pawlenty praised as "the smartest, most insightful guy in this debate."

"This decision should be based on conditions on the ground and success, not some vague notions of a responsible wind-down and then jumping over what the real mission is now, which is stabilizing the security of that country," he said.

"To leave now when we're so close to a successful completion...I think is a grave mistake," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Boehner on Afghanistan: Big Pullout Could Jeopardize Success

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As President Obama prepares to speak to the nation Wednesday in a primetime address on Afghanistan, House Speaker John Boehner says that while he is "concerned about any precipitous withdrawal of our troops that would jeopardize the success that we've made," he would support the president's judgment as long as he follows recommendations from commanders and diplomats in the region.

Asked whether he sensed that House Republicans were growing wary of the mission in Afghanistan, the speaker said that the sentiment of lawmakers "on both sides of the aisle reflect the opinions and attitudes of their constituents."

"The American people are a bit wary about Afghanistan, and you can't blame them," Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "You have 100,000 of our young men and women fighting in this desert over there, but remember why we're there. We're there because the Taliban had taken over Afghanistan, they had provided safe haven to al-Qaeda, and as a result, al-Qaeda had safe ground in which to plan, train, and execute attacks on Americans and our allies around the world."

"The goal here is to make sure that they don't have that safe haven, and so we've got some work to do, but clearly the success that General Petraeus outlined is in fact a success. We're getting there, but we've got an awful lot invested here, and I'm concerned about any precipitous withdrawal of our troops that would jeopardize the success that we've made," he added. "If the president listens to the commanders on the ground, and our diplomats in the region, makes a decision, I'll be there to support him. Success in Afghanistan is critically important."

Boehner added that he has not been briefed by the White House on the president's plans to reduce troop levels.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Navigates Math, Politics with Afghan Troop Withdrawal

The White House/Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- When President Obama was contemplating a new Afghan war strategy in late 2009, he faced sharp divisions within his own administration between those recommending 40,000 or more troops and a full counterinsurgency and those advocating half as many and a focus on counterterrorism.

He chose a middle road: 30,000 troops and a mix of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, or COIN, in the military lingo.

Now, he's facing a similar disagreement as he announces Wednesday night the timetable for ending the so-called Afghan surge -- this time between those supporting a modest reduction of 5,000 to 10,000 troops before the year's end and those pushing for deeper cuts.  He might again risk pleasing neither side.

The pace and scope of the withdrawal has sparked controversy between the administration and the military, which has warned against pulling out too fast.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is set to retire at the end of the month, warned earlier this month that it would be premature to make any significant changes to the military campaign in Afghanistan.  Gates had noted in March that the gains in Afghanistan "are fragile and reversible."

On the other side, Obama faces a war-weary public.  According to the latest ABC News polling, 73 percent of Americans say the United States should withdraw a substantial number of U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan this summer.  Yet far fewer, 43 percent, think that will happen.

Americans also question the long-term impact of America's presence in Afghanistan. Fifty-seven percent say the war has contributed to the long-term security of the United States.  But far fewer, 25 percent, say it has contributed "a great deal," which is the kind of payback many want to see, given the war's steep price tag. The United States has spent roughly $112 billion in Afghanistan this year alone.

With Congress mired in ongoing debt negotiations and the Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt limit looming, lawmakers are urging the president to focus America's resources at home instead.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio