Republicans, Vocal Trump Critics Jump To Praise President’s Afghanistan Plan

Tom Williams/CQPHO

After reversing course on his “original instinct” to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan and declaring on Tuesday an unannounced approach to military operations in the country, GOP lawmakers praised President Donald Trump for his new strategy.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who is the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, commended the President for his “big step in the right direction” and calling his decision “long overdue.”

During a prime time speech to a joint session of Congress Tuesday evening, Trump outlined his plans for the U.S. in Afghanistan, saying he wanted the U.S. to focus on unannounced attacks on terrorist cells, nondisclosure of troop numbers and unfixed schedules. He said there were going to be several “pillars” to his strategy.

“The unfortunate truth is that this strategy is long overdue, and in the interim, the Taliban have made dangerous inroads. Nevertheless, I believe the President is now moving us well beyond the prior administration’s failed strategy of merely postponing defeat,” McCain said in a statement. “It is especially important that the newly announced strategy gives no timeline for withdrawal, rather ensures that any decision to reduce our commitment in the future will be based on conditions on the ground.

A frequent critic of Trump, McCain warned that the President would need to “conduct himself as a wartime commander-in-chief.”

“He must speak regularly to the American people, and to those waging this war on their behalf, about why we are fighting, why the additional sacrifices are worth it and how we will succeed,” he said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) made similar remarks, saying on Fox News Monday evening that he was “proud” of Trump.

“President Trump has the smarts and the moral courage to listen to his generals and take their advice rather than go the political way,” he said.

The President reversed Tuesday on the message he has consistently expressed as a candidate and a citizen — to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan — but said after speaking with generals and studying the conflict he came to “fundamental conclusions about America’s core interests in Afghanistan.”

After denouncing the President for not fully condemning the white nationalists in Charlottesville last weekend, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) touched on Trump’s speech during a town hall hosted by CNN.

He said he was in support of Trump’s plans to move away from former President Barack Obama’s timetable-based withdraw strategy.

“It (the Taliban) believe that we have some end date, some timetable, then they will wait us out and then they will come back and fill that vacuum with terror,” he said.

Other GOP lawmakers to support the Presidents plans include Sen. Bob Corker (R-SC) — who said he looks forward to “receiving additional details” but likes Trump’s new direction — and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR).

“The president gave a strong speech tonight, and I support his decision on Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda planned the 9/11 attacks in that country, and it’s the one place where we’ve largely dislodged its network, though there’s clearly more work to be done after several recent years of drift,” Cotton said. “We cannot allow it to fall back into the hands of Islamist terrorists-because they’ll use it to launch even more attacks against us. The rise of ISIS in Iraq was a terrible lesson in the dangers of precipitous withdrawal.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.
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