Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says he will probably support the plan, expected from the White House Wednesday evening, to reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan – if the reduction is approved by General David Petraeus, commander of American forces in the country.
"I am assuming that what he is going to say tonight, General Petraeus approves of,” McConnell said Wednesday, at a breakfast for reporters hosted by the Monitor.
“If he does, then I would be comforted that this is a reduction that would not endanger the mission that has been going on for the last year and a half – which I support – which I think has made a positive difference, particularly in southern Afghanistan.”
The president is expected to pull out 10,000 troops by the end of 2011 and try to bring home another 20,000 from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, the Associated Press reported, citing an unnamed senior defense official. Some 100,000 US troops are currently in Afghanistan.
Senator McConnell said he had “a lot of confidence” in Petraeus, who is leaving Afghanistan and the Army to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
“Most Senate Republicans support what the president has done in Afghanistan,” McConnell said.
The same cannot be said for US military involvement in Libya, however. “There are clearly divisions among Republicans in the Senate conference, as well as out across the land,” on the Libya mission, McConnell said. “In my own conference, I think I’ve got at least some members who think this kind of presidential action is actually unconstitutional. I’ve got some who believe that even though it might be desirable in a perfect world to intervene in places, we simply can’t afford it and it’s a matter of cost.”
And in a bit of candor, McConnell added, "I'm not sure that these kinds of differences might not have been there in a more latent form when you had a Republican president. But I do think there's more of a tendency to pull together when the guy in the White House is on your side."