Obama officials defend President's new Afghan war plan - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Obama officials defend President's new Afghan war plan

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Defense Secretary Robert Gates Defense Secretary Robert Gates
Senator John McCain Senator John McCain
President Barack Obama President Barack Obama

By Brian Mooar

WASHINGTON (NBC) - Tuesday night, President Obama laid out his new plan for the war in Afghanistan. Wednesday, his administration is selling the plan on Capitol Hill.

The first of 30,000 more troops will begin surging into the war zone next month but the question is when and how they'll come home. On Capitol Hill, the officials charged with carrying out President Obama's new war plan say it will work.

"Let me state right up front that I support fully and without hesitation the president's decision," said Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"Simply put, among a range of difficult choices, this is the best way to protect our nation now and in the future," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates defended the president's decision to define a date that troops will start coming home - July 2011.

"Beginning to transfer security responsibility to the Afghans in summer 2011 is critical - and, in my, view achievable," Gates said.

The President's former rival, Senator John McCain says he supports the plan, but blasted a pullout date he sees as arbitrary.

"Which is it? It's got to be one or the other. It's got to be the appropriate conditions or it's got to be an arbitrary date – you can't have both," McCain said.

The top U.S. general in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal said he was absolutely supportive of the 18 month timeline, but said it wasn't absolute.

In announcing the plan last night at West Point the President himself left room for change.

"Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground," the President said.

But he also made it clear those conditions include Afghanistan's leaders taking on responsibility.

"This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank check are over," said Mr. Obama.

Still it's a check that congress must be convinced to sign.

But it is US troops who will bear the ultimate burden. Admiral Mullen says this fight will be difficult, but winnable.

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