Senators warn against withdrawing early from Afghanistan

The US must resist calls to accelerate its withdrawal from Afghanistan in the wake of Koran burnings and an American soldier's alleged massacre of 16 civilians, a trio of Senate Armed Services Committee members argued late Wednesday.

Writing in The Washington Post, senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the country must resist abandoning the Afghan people and sacrificing the many gains that have been made for both the US and Afghanistan throughout the war against terror.

They wrote, "We abandoned Afghanistan in the 1990s, and the result was a fanatical regime that allowed its territory to become a base for global terror attacks, while inflicting medieval tyranny ... If we quit Afghanistan again, and abandon the millions of Afghans who have risked everything to be our allies in the hopes of succeeding together, the consequences will be disastrous for both our peoples."

Amid calls for President Barack Obama to withdraw more quickly than planned from Afghanistan, the senators wrote that it was critical to "resist the shortsighted calls for additional troop reductions, which would guarantee failure."

"Our forces are slated to draw down to 68,000 by September -- a faster pace than our military commanders recommended ... At a minimum, there should be a pause after September to assess the impact of the drawdown," the senators said.

They said a sustained show of US support for Afghanistan would prove the two nations were forming a lasting bond that would ensure the Afghan government and security forces could maintain peace.

In February, there were days of protests and two US troops shot dead over the attempted destruction of Muslim holy books, including the Koran, by NATO troops, which was followed by the March 11 massacre of 16 civilians -- mostly women and children -- allegedly by a US soldier.

While Obama, in the wake of those dramas, warned against a withdrawal that would be "just a rush for the exits" and pledged to see out the mission as planned, GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich spoke in favor of expediting the process, telling FOX News Channel, "I think that we are risking our young men and women in a mission that may frankly not be doable."

His opponents Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum disagreed, with Santorum saying, "We have to either make the decision to make a full commitment, which this president has not done, or we have to decide to get out and probably get out sooner." Romney warned against changing national policy "based on a deranged, crazy person."