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Area Missouri and Illinois members of Congress react to Obama's plan

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 23, 2011 - Members of local congressional delegation reacted to President Barack Obama's speech Wednesday, before and after he addressed the nation. 

Here are excerpts from the local delegation's remarks:

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who is also assistant senate majority leader, signed a letter last week with 26 members of U.S. Senate, calling for a sizable and sustained reduction of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. After the president's speech, he said:

"The president's announcement that we will withdraw 30,000 of our 100,000 troops from Afghanistan by next summer is a step toward the end of this long war.....We invaded Afghanistan to end al-Qaida and with the killing of Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, we have accomplished our goal. ... Over the coming months, I'll continue to press for a swift and substantial withdrawal of our combat forces from Afghanistan. Ten years, hundreds of billions of dollars and the loss of over 1,600 American service members later, it's time for our fighting men and women to come home."

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., issued a statement faulting Obama's plan.

"I am concerned that the president has not followed the recommendations of Gen. Petraeus on the timing of our withdrawal from Afghanistan. The general was successful in Iraq by maintaining American momentum while the Iraqi army grew to the size needed to maintain long-term security. To repeat his victory formula in Afghanistan, we would need to maintain military momentum against al-Qaida and the Taliban until the Afghan army reaches critical mass of 400,000 troops... estimated to be achievable by 2014. We withdrew our support and ignored Afghanistan in the 1990s and paid a high price in 2001. We should learn from that mistake and back the Petraeus strategy."

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said, "As we begin the drawdown of our troops in Afghanistan, we need to be sure that we don't endanger forces that are left there, and we need to better define our goals. If we can't define our goals, we need to be sure that our troops come home safely."

U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Wildwood, is chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. Akin appeared to oppose the president's withdrawal proposal.

"It is critical that we retain the necessary forces in Afghanistan to ensure the successful completion of our mission. We will review the proposed drawdown in light of the advice of our field commanders. The president needs to show us how exactly he plans to transition from American forces to Afghan forces. We need to understand how he is going to ensure that our efforts in Afghanistan were not in vain."

U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, called for a swifter withdrawal. He sits on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and is the top Democrat on panel's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. He also sits on the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights.

"Last night's announcement of initial troop withdrawals by the president marks the first step in bringing our troops home after a long decade fighting abroad. As we begin the drawdown, the United States must continue to engage with our international partners to responsibly end our military mission: training Afghanistan National Security Forces, improved governance and a successful transition to control by the Afghan people."

U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, indicated that he also wanted to see a quicker withdrawal of U.S. troops:

"I have said many times that we should bring our troops home from Afghanistan as quickly as possible. We need to maintain the ability in the region to disrupt terrorist networks, and that is mainly an intelligence and law enforcement effort.

"It does not require 100,000 troops on the ground, and removing 10,000 by the end of this year is not sufficient progress. After 10 years in the country, it should be clear to anyone paying attention that we do not have the ability to remake Afghan society, and we certainly cannot afford the $10 billion per month cost we are incurring there now. We need to devote these resources to creating jobs at home by improving our roads, bridges, airports and levees, while also paying down our debt. I will continue to urge President Obama to bring our troops home from Afghanistan much faster."

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, offered cautious support for Obama's approach:

"I supported the President's surge in Afghanistan as a means to bring stability to that nation and to combat terrorist forces in that country. While the surge has been successful, there are still great challenges. However, I support this initial withdrawal plan but believe he needs to continue to listen to the military commanders on the ground and revise the plan if necessary. The Afghan government also needs to continue to move forward with improvements to both its government and security."

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.