GOP, Dems urge US 'stick to plan' in Afghanistan

By Donna Cassata

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, March 14 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

"Over the past 18 months, we've knocked the Taliban on their backsides," he said. "So we must be extremely cautious when we discuss pulling surge forces out before we have secured our gains. We can still leave Afghanistan with our heads held high and the Taliban defeated. But it will take resolve and patience."

In a swipe at Obama, McKeon said the president must do a better job of explaining to the American people the importance of the fight against terrorism and describing the courageous acts of the military. McKeon said President George W. Bush delivered more than 40 speeches about the war on terrorism to Obama's three — two in 2009 and one in 2011.

When pressed on those numbers, McKeon's staff said the three speeches did not include Obama's address to the nation announcing that U.S. forces had killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

McKeon, who has endorsed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, also criticized the administration's proposed cuts to projected defense spending and vowed to reverse the reductions.

The $614 billion defense budget for 2013 would slash the size of the Army and Marine Corps, cut back on shipbuilding and delay the purchase of some fighter jets and weapons systems. Overall, the budget would provide $525.4 billion in base spending and $88.5 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The total is nearly $32 billion less than this year's budget, a reflection of the drawdown in the two conflicts and the call to reduce the nation's deficit. The Congressional Budget Office estimated Tuesday that the government will run a $1.2 trillion deficit for the budget year ending just a few weeks before Election Day, the fourth straight year of trillion-dollar-plus red ink.

The overall defense spending was dictated by the budget agreement that Obama and congressional Republicans reached in August that calls for defense cuts of $487 billion over a decade. McKeon voted for that budget agreement but insisted he will work to reverse the defense cuts.

"I will not be complicit in the dismantling of the Reagan military," he said.

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