Washington, DC - Saying the war in Afghanistan is not a partisan problem, but "an American problem" and an issue that Americans need to come together on, Senator Jim Risch provided his view of the situation and posed questions to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen on President Obama's Afghanistan policy.
During the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing earlier today Senator Risch said "there are no good choices" in the conflict and the situation in Afghanistan could be "characterized as a Rubik's Cube on steroids." He also said, "The American people, including myself, want to see success and want to see us out of Afghanistan."
Senator Risch questioned the panel on the date of the withdrawal and drawdown of troops from Afghanistan, asking if the July 2011 date stated by the president on Tuesday was a target or a hard date.
Saying it was a firm date, Defense Secretary Gates responded, "One of the purposes of this date is to put the Afghans on notice and give them a sense of urgency that they must begin to accept their responsibility for their own security and it's going to start then; so they have to get their men recruited, get them trained, and get them into the field and into combat with us."
Senator Risch agreed that the Afghanistan government needed to have that sense of urgency, but that providing the enemy with a hard withdrawal date was not helpful.
This morning's hearing was in response to the president's announcement that an additional 30,000 troops will be sent to Afghanistan starting in early 2010. The increase is focused on population centers primarily in the southern regions of the country.