Entries in War in Afghanistan (9)


Obama Honors Fallen Troops, Looks to the War's End on Memorial Day

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a solemn ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama today called on Americans to never forget the sacrifice of soldiers who served in harm's way and died for their fellow countrymen.

"America stands at a crossroads, but even as we turn a page on a decade of conflict, even as we look forward, let us never forget as we gather here today that our nation is still at war," Obama said.

The president laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, a monument that commemorates soldiers killed in U.S. wars whose remains have never been identified.

As Obama marked the coming end of the conflict in Afghanistan, he reflected on the nearly 7,000 soldiers who have been killed since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Today the transition is underway in Afghanistan and our troops are coming home," Obama said. "Fewer Americans are making the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan and that's progress for which we are profoundly grateful."

"This time next year, we will mark the final Memorial Day of our war in Afghanistan," he added.

Obama lamented that the costs of war fall too often on country's all-volunteer fighting force and the families these soldiers leave behind.

"This truth cannot be ignored, today most Americans are not directly touched by war," Obama noted. "For those of us who bear the solemn responsibility of sending these men and women into harm's way, we know the consequences all too well."

"I feel it every time I meet a wounded warrior, every time I visit Walter Reed [National Military Medical Center], every time I grieve with a gold star family," he added.

This Memorial Day follows a week in which the president sought to usher in a new phase in the fight against terror as the decade-long conflicts in the Middle East comes to a close, and he prepares to cement his presidential legacy at the onset of his second term.

In a speech at the National Defense University on Thursday, Obama said that though the fight against terrorism must continue, the wars will come to an end.

"Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end," Obama said.

At Arlington today, Obama memorialized three soldiers who had recently died in the line of duty: Army Capt. Sara Knutson Cullen, a Black Hawk pilot, Staff Sgt. Francis G. "Frankie" Phillips IV, a combat medic, and Marine staff Sgt. Eric D. Christian.

He and first lady Michelle Obama visited Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery where Cullen and Phillips were laid to rest.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


George W. Bush: Iraq, Afghanistan Wars ‘Worth Fighting’

ABC News(DALLAS) -- To the 30 percent of veterans who in a recent Pew Research Center poll said that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan weren’t worth fighting, former President George W. Bush has this to say: "I hope history proves them wrong.”

“The only way for there to be peace is for free societies to emerge.  And, you know, history takes a while to unfold,” he told ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff in an exclusive interview over the weekend.  “I happen to think it was worth fighting. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have put them into combat.”

The veterans with whom he has met have all indicated that they were “proud to serve,” he told Woodruff during an interview in which the 65-year-old two-term president talked about his efforts to aid wounded veterans through the George W. Bush Institute.

The interview took place ahead of the Bush Institute’s Warrior Open, a golf tournament in suburban Dallas for military service members who were severely injured while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The tournament will take place on Monday and Tuesday.

In the wide-ranging interview, Woodruff asked Bush about a number of issues, including the topics making headlines in the race to select the next GOP presidential candidate.  Bush declined to answer.

“I’m not going to opine on the subjects of politics,” he said.

Four organizations that supported the recovery and rehabilitation of 2011 Warrior Open competitors and their families will be honored during the golfing event.  The organizations are Hope For The Warriors, Salute Military Golf Association, Semper Fi Fund and Troops First Foundation.

“I love these guys, love the women in service,” Bush said.  “And to the extent that I can help them, I will.  To the extent that I can herald their courage, I will.”

The Warrior Open is the second of two events of the Bush Center’s Military Service Initiative emphasizing the importance of sports -- such as mountain biking and golf -- for rehabilitating many of those seriously injured on the front lines.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama to Spend Columbus Day Visiting Wounded Troops 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama, who spent the weekend at Camp David, will spend the afternoon with wounded service members at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.

The visit comes one week after the United States marked the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. In a statement last week, the president stressed how his administration is ending the war “responsibly” and from “a position of strength.”

“As we reflect on 10 years of war and look ahead to a future of peace, Michelle and I call upon all Americans to show our gratitude and support for our fellow citizens who risk their lives so that we can enjoy the blessings of freedom and security,” Obama said, a message he will likely share with troops Monday.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


GOP Candidates Show Shifting Stance on Afghanistan

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Some Republican presidential candidates are charting a different course than their GOP counterparts on the war in Afghanistan, raising questions about ideological rifts before a crucial election cycle.

Jon Huntsman, who will announce his candidacy next week, openly questioned U.S. strategy in the war-torn nation in an interview with Esquire magazine.

"Should we stay and play traffic cop?  I don't think that serves our strategic interests," the former Utah governor said.

Mitt Romney, the current frontrunner in the race, echoed similar sentiments in Monday's debate, saying "it's time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can, consistent with the word that comes to our generals."

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty also said at a recent gathering of GOP activists that the United States should cut back its troops, depending on conditions on the ground, a different tune from his 2009 stance when he pushed President Obama to support a surge.

The viewpoints of the 2012 candidates mark a stark departure from 2008, when the issue of terrorism still ranked higher on Americans' agenda, and investing in the Afghanistan war, both monetarily and physically with more troops, was a strong policy stance for Republicans.

At the time, libertarian Ron Paul stood out as a pariah in his opposition to the war.  But that has since changed.

The shift, some observers say, is not surprising, given that the public is increasingly getting wary of the prolonged war in Afghanistan, and the situation on the ground is considerably different than it was three years ago. The anger and uproar that resulted in the United States after the events of Sept. 11 has also subsided and is becoming less of a factor in political debates.

"Timing has a lot to do with it.  It's been 10 years," said Republican strategist and ABC News consultant Torie Clarke. "I think you'll find a lot of very conservative Republicans are going to be saying, 'Hey we've given it everything we can, and it's time to get out of it.'"

At the same time, Republican candidates are also aiming to separate themselves from President Obama, who approved a surge in troops last year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Could Tea Party Reshape the Afghanistan Debate?

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gary A. Witte, 300th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment(WASHINGTON) -- Tea Party activists have remained quiet on the foreign policy front, but with budget cuts under the limelight, the war in Afghanistan could fracture Republicans at a time when they're already struggling to come to a consensus on what the budget cuts should entail.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is the latest in the short line of Republicans to suggest that Congress should consider defense budget cuts and rethink the number of troops it has committed in Afghanistan.

"We can save money on defense and if we Republicans don't propose saving money on defense, we'll have no credibility on anything else," Barbour, a potential presidential contender, said on Tuesday, adding that "we need to look at" reducing the number of soldiers in Afghanistan.

While Barbour may be in the minority in the GOP, his comments reflect a perspective increasingly being pushed by deficit hawks.  They also come at a time when Republicans are facing increasing pressure from Tea Party and other conservative groups to take bolder steps in addressing the budget.

With candidates and lawmakers up for re-election next year already gearing up for a tough fight, the Tea Party's push on cost-cutting and returning to Constitutional principles could reshape the debate and Republican support of the war in Afghanistan.

"The Constitution stipulates the common defense of the United States, not a common defense of everybody else, and that's different from what Washington's attitude is," said Christopher A. Preble, author and director of foreign policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute.  "There's something deeply unconservative about nation-building and that's what we're doing in Afghanistan, or at least that's what we appear to be doing.  Barbour pretty much picked up on this."

Tea Party members have, thus far, deliberately steered clear of foreign policy issues and defense spending, but when it comes to the budget, they say everything should be on the line.

"We don't address foreign policy at all," said Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express, one of the country's leading national Tea Party groups.  "But when I say every program needs to be on the table, I mean that every program needs to be on the table.  Sure, there's duplicate programs, waste and fraud and abuse in every single department.  It all needs to be on the table, and it all needs to be looked at."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sen. Sherrod Brown: 'We Need to Wrap Up in Afghanistan'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Until now, Congressional opposition to the war in Afghanistan has been largely limited to a small number of liberal Democrats in the House, but if Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH.) is correct, we are about to see a movement in the Senate in favor of rapidly withdrawing U.S. troops.

"One of the most important things is staying on schedule starting in July on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan because, one, it's not working so well, second, because of the cost of that to American taxpayers," Brown said in an interview with ABC News.

President Obama has said the U.S. would begin withdrawing some troops from Afghanistan in July, but he has not specified how many troops would come home.  Brown insisted the withdrawal must be significant and ultimately lead to an end to U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.

"I think the withdrawal begins in earnest [in July].  A systematic withdrawal of troops out of Afghanistan," Brown said.  "I think we've been there too long."

Support for the war has generally been strong in Congress since the initial invasion in 2001, but there has been some opposition among House Democrats.  On Thursday, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) forced a vote on withdrawing U.S. troops.  The measure failed overwhelmingly by a vote of 321 to 93, but attracted 28 more "yes" votes than the last time Kucinich forced a vote on withdrawal.

Sen. Brown predicts opposition is growing among Senate Democrats.

"I will be pushing it," Brown said.  "And so will a lot of my colleagues."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gen. Petraeus Reveals Son Fought in Afghanistan

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Overshadowed in the congressional testimony given by Gen. David Petraeus this week was a small, personal bombshell the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan dropped on lawmakers.

With members of a House Armed Services Committee pressing the general on just how long U.S. forces will serve in the war, Petraeus let it be known that his son, Stephen, had recently wrapped up a combat tour in Afghanistan as an infantry platoon leader.

Lt. Stephen Petraeus is currently a member of Alpha Company, 3rd Platoon, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

The reality was revealed when Republican Rep. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina speculated that American forces may stay in Afghanistan well past the 2014 deadline to hand over security responsibilities to Afghan forces, adding, "You know, 15, 16, 17 years, for God sakes, how much more can we take, how much more can we give treasure and blood?"

Petraeus then talked about his son and his personal stake in making sure the U.S. achieves victory.  He also said he would be honest with the president and Pentagon leaders "if I ever felt that we couldn't achieve our objectives."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Kucinich Demands Withdrawal of US Troops in Afghanistan by Year's End

US Department of Defense(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Dennis Kucinich has been an outspoken opponent of the war in Afghanistan since the outset of military operations in October 2001.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives will once again debate his resolution to pull troops out of Afghanistan.

H. Con. Res. 28 calls for President Obama to remove troops from Afghanistan within 30 days of adoption, or if the president determines such a rapid withdrawal would jeopardize the safety of U.S. troops, then delay the withdrawal to no later than the end of the year.

“This is an effort to get us out of Afghanistan no later than the end of the year,” Kucinich, D-Ohio, told ABC News Thursday morning.  “Most American people know that this war isn’t worth fighting for, that we should have been gone a long time ago, that the cost of it at $100 billion a year, and the cost of lives to our troops, the deaths of innocent civilians, all of this makes this war dangerous, risky, a waste of time, a waste of money.”

Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the United States' plan to begin withdrawing troops in July of 2011 is still on schedule.  But the pace of withdrawal is expected to be gradual, with some troops remaining to train and assist the Afghan military after the final pullout planned for the end of 2014.  Currently there are about 97,000 American troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

Kucinich, a two-time presidential candidate for the Democratic nomination, unleashed on President Obama’s policy in Afghanistan, criticizing the president’s strategy to slowly withdraw troops, even though the Pentagon is set to begin decreasing troop levels this summer.

“We’re there, number one.  That’s the first thing that’s wrong.  We shouldn’t be there,” Kucinich said.  “The second thing that’s wrong is we’ve stayed too long.  The third thing that’s wrong, we’re spending $100 billion a year; the fourth thing that is wrong is the counter-insurgency strategy, which is almost an oxymoron.  The minute that you’re there occupying, the occupation fuels an insurgency.  So who are these geniuses that are keeping us there in Afghanistan while our troops bear the brunt of this disaster with more fatalities, more injuries, and also there’s more civilians who are being killed.”

Kucinich has repeatedly brought similar resolutions to pull troops from Afghanistan to the floor in the past.  Even under Democratic control, the resolution has never passed.  Last year, the resolution was defeated 356-to-65.  Just five Republicans, and 60 Democrats backed the effort.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Americans Want Energy Bill in 2011, Unsure About Gun Control

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PRINCETON, N.J.) - Americans this year would like to see Congress act on an energy bill with alternative energy incentives more than any other congressional act, according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll.

The poll asked Americans which of eight potential congressional actions this year they would support. Eighty-three percent favored such an energy bill with a lot of support also going to an overhaul of the federal tax code, at 70 percent.

A less-popular option was the expansion of rights that would give some illegal immigrants a path to U.S. citizenship. Fifty-five percent opposed such legislation while 43 percent supported it.

Support for stronger gun control laws was divided with 49 percent in favor and 50 percent opposed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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