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Inhofe: Hasty Troop Withdrawal Jeopardizes Gains (Jun 23, 2011)

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) warns that a hasty withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan would jeopardize gains made in the region over the past decade.

Responding to President Barack Obama’s speech last night, Inhofe said that while the initial objective of capturing or killing al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has been completed, there’s still more work to be done.

“The killing of Osama bin Laden was a great victory, but our mission in Afghanistan is to ensure it will never again become a staging area for terrorist attacks against the American homeland," Inhofe said

The senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee says while he has long advocated for troop withdrawal, he doesn’t believe the conditions on the ground allow for a substantial reduction.

Inhofe said last night's speech was about fulfilling a political promise made in 2009 , rather than achieving stated objectives in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In a video statement, Inhofe said the U.S. needs to keep up the pressure, turn the corner, and stop the Taliban’s momentum.

“I agree with what our commanders are saying, that we have made significant progress," Inhofe said. "But that progress is fragile and reversible. Would we want to jeopardize that progress? No, we wouldn’t. We must not make major changes prematurely."

Inhofe raised similar concerns earlier this month when two units of the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th Infantry Brigade originally slated for Afghanistan were instead assigned to activity in Kuwait.

“I spent New Year’s Eve with our troops in Afghanistan, and during my visit Afghan and coalition personnel unanimously told me that setting the July 2011 timeline to begin with withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan had a devastating effect on operations," Inhofe said.

Inhofe said the biggest mistake President Obama could make is telling the enemy what the U.S. is going to do and when.

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