WASHINGTON -- Two Democratic senators and one Republican senator are calling for the removal of all regular combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, a timetable that is significantly shorter than the one President Obama recently announced.
"We commend the president for sticking to the July date he had outlined for beginning the withdrawal. However, his plan would not remove all regular combat troops until 2014," Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) wrote in a Tuesday op-ed in The New York Times.
"We believe the United States is capable of achieving this goal by the end of 2012. America would be more secure and stronger economically if we recognized that we have largely achieved our objectives in Afghanistan and moved aggressively to bring our troops and tax dollars home," the senators continued.
In the op-ed, they said the U.S. is spending $10 billion a month in Afghanistan while back home, the United States is struggling with "high unemployment and a flood of foreclosures, a record deficit and a debt that is over $14 trillion and growing."
"It is not too late to change course in what has become the longest American war in history. In light of our considerable national needs, both security and domestic, we urge the president to bring our troops home at last," they concluded.
All three senators have been critical of a lengthy withdrawal timeline for quite some time, but Tuesday's op-ed is the most direct call from them for removing combat troops by the end of 2012.
Merkley, Paul and Udall were co-signers on a June 15 letter to Obama calling for "a sizable and sustained reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan." Twenty-four other senators signed on.
On June 22, Obama announced to the nation that 33,000 U.S. troops will be pulled out of Afghanistan by fall 2012. Five thousand troops will be pulled out immediately, with another 5,000 leaving at the end of 2011. The new plan left many of the president's fellow Democrats disappointed that the withdrawal would not be more robust.
On Tuesday, Obama and Vice President Biden are scheduled to meet with U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker and Lt. Gen. John Allen, who is taking over as the top commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In the afternoon, they will be meeting with Leon Panetta, who just took over as secretary of defense.