KABUL, Afghanistan -- Three U.S. senators visiting Kabul said Sunday they are worried that President Barack Obama's planned withdrawal of 33,000 American troops by September 2012 could undermine Afghan morale, embolden the insurgency and hamper efforts to defeat Taliban fighters.
John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham said they are heartened by the progress of Afghan security forces, but worry that Obama's withdrawal plan could deplete American military strength before dealing a decisive blow to the Taliban, especially in eastern Afghanistan. That part of the country is a haven for the Afghan and Pakistani wings of the Taliban, and al-Qaida affiliates.
"I believe that the planned drawdown is an unnecessary risk," McCain, a Republican from Arizona, who claimed that no military leader has spoken in favor of the timetable.
Lt. Gen. John R. Allen, a Marine general expected to carry out the president's drawdown order, has said the schedule is a bit more aggressive than the military had anticipated.
Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, cited gains in Afghan security force recruitment and capability and said he was optimistic that native forces would soon be ready to take over security. But Graham also worried Obama's withdrawal plan may reduce U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan too quickly.
"Withdrawal is what the enemy hopes to hear," said Graham.
Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, said it was important to reassure Afghans that they will continue to receive help long after the 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops.
Sens. Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman are expressing concern that Iran is aggressively extending its support for anti-democracy forces wherever they appear.
In appearances on "Fox News Sunday," Graham said it is important for the U.S. to push back against Iran's assistance to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Lieberman said Iran has the blood of hundreds of American soldiers on its hands and that legislation in Congress would impose new economic sanctions on an Iranian government that has killed its own people.