Sanders wants new Afghan exit strategy

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(Host) Senator Bernie Sanders says the United States needs to develop an exit strategy for its involvement in Afghanistan.

Sanders says he’s concerned that the country will "get bogged down in a quagmire" in Afghanistan and he says sending more U.S. troops isn’t an appropriate option at this time.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The issue of sending more troops to Afghanistan became a major concern this week when the chief U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, stated that he believed the United States would lose its war effort unless additional troops are deployed.

Senator Bernie Sanders was not impressed by the General’s analysis:

(Sanders) "I don’t know what winning or losing means when we’re not clear about what our goals are and what our exit strategy is…and it’s a little bit more complicated than just saying’ let’s send more troops, let’s send more troops. Let’s have no exit strategy, let’s have no clear goals of what we want to accomplish.’ So I wasn’t overly impressed with by the general’s statement."

(Kinzel) By mid week, the Obama Administration signaled that it wants to reconsider its options in Afghanistan including a plan proposed by Vice President Biden to scale back the number of U.S. troops, to accelerate the training of Afghan security forces and to concentrate on defeating al-queada operatives in Pakistan.

Sanders says it’s a promising approach:

(Sanders) "I fear very, very much that after 8 years of the war in Afghanistan if our only option is to send more and more troops we can get bogged down in a quagmire which is going to take more and more lives and billions and billions of more dollars and I think we need to do some alternative thinking and I’m pleased to hear that the President apparently is reevaluating his former position on Afghanistan and is looking at different options." 

(Kinzel) And Sanders says the time has come for Congress to engage in a serious discussion about this country’s long term goals in Afghanistan:

(Sanders) "How more years should we stay there? What is the best way to support the legitimate and honest forces in Afghanistan in taking on the Taliban? How do you relate to Pakistan in making sure that we deal with al-queada, which is now congregating not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan? Those are some of the issues that we’ve got to think of."

(Kinzel) A contingent of roughly 1500 Vermont National Guard troops is scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan at the beginning of 2010.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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