Dick Cheney Warns Against Afghanistan Withdrawal: Don't 'Run For The Exits' (VIDEO)
WASHINGTON -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney warned the Obama administration on Sunday not to hasten the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
"I'm a bit concerned that we're now going to see a situation where because we've got bin Laden, there will be a rush to get out of Afghanistan, to pack up troops and say the task is done and we can leave," said Cheney in an interview with "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace. "I'm not sure that's wise at all."
In recent days, an increasing number of voices have called on the Obama administration to reevaluate its strategy in Afghanistan in light of the death of bin Laden in Pakistan.
Perhaps the strongest shift by a lawmaker this past week came from Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who supported President Obama's surge of troops in Afghanistan and had chastised colleagues for wanting to withdraw from the country.
"We should reevaluate our commitment there given the death of bin Laden, the toll on our troops, and our budget situation," Stearns said in a statement to The Huffington Post. "In other words, we need to come home sometime, and the sooner the better."
When pressed by Wallace whether it was necessary to still have 100,000 troops on the ground in Afghanistan, especially in light of the fact that bin Laden was killed "deep in the heart of Pakistan" by a small group of Navy SEALs, Cheney acknowledged that it was "entirely possible we could change some aspect of our policy."
"What I don't want to see happen is what happened again in the 1980s," added Cheney. "After we solved the Soviet problem, everybody left Afghanistan. And ultimately, the Taliban took control, Osama bin Laden showed up and it became a safe harbor. They trained 27,000-some terrorists, and they launched an attack against the United States. If we turn and walk away from Pakistan and Afghanistan or that part of the world generally, I'm fearful that we're headed for trouble down the road. ... I don't think we need to run for the exits."
So far, Obama administration officials haven't publicly stated on the record that they are considering a change in policy regarding Afghanistan. White House spokesman Jay Carney recently said that their strategy "remains unchanged."
On "Fox News Sunday," White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said that although bin Laden's death was a "big step" toward the "strategic defeat of al Qaeda," U.S. forces have to ensure that Afghanistan does not become a safe haven for the terrorist group.
"The drawdown pace and numbers -- that will be decided on decisions going forward. Those decisions haven't been made," said Donilon.
But a "senior administration official" recently told The Washington Post that bin Laden's death was "the beginning of the endgame in Afghanistan." "It changes everything," added the official.
In March, President Bush told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren that he doesn't believe it's time to withdraw from Afghanistan yet, saying he was concerned about what would happen to women's rights.