Kelly Ayotte, Marco Rubio and Ron Johnson

Freshman Republicans want even longer Afghan war

New "fiscally conservative" GOP senators say the U.S. should extend the expensive Afghan war indefinitely


Justin Elliott
January 17, 2011 11:50PM (UTC)

Last week anti-tax leader Grover Norquist pleaded with conservatives to have, at least, a conversation about Afghanistan and the goals and costs of the 10-year war. (One estimate puts the price tag at $120 billion per year.)

But it appears the Republican Party is simply not there with Norquist.

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The latest evidence comes as four freshman Republican senators, including among the most "fiscally conservative" members of the Senate, have concluded a trip to the region. They are now promptly calling for the expensive war to be extended indefinitely.

This is despite the fact that the Obama Administration's oft-repeated target dates for beginning of withdrawal (July 2011) and full transition to Afghan control (2014) are not hard deadlines at all

John McCormack at the Weekly Standard has been gathering reaction from the senators, Marco Rubio of Florida, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Ron Jonson of Wisconsin, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. All four came back with basically the same message: progress is being made in the war and there should not be even a timeline for withdrawal. Here's Rubio:

Based on everything we've see here, we are making significant progress. ...

Everywhere we went here--and I mean everywhere--from the markets that we walked on the streets to the Afghan authorities, all the way up to the president, even in Pakistan, what we heard repeatedly was: It is important--it is important--that it is clearly understood that the U.S. is committed to seeing this through.

And here's Johnson: 

We’ve sacrificed so many lives and so many dollars in this effort and it’s such an important effort in terms of our national security, we have to see this thing through.

Politically this means that -- even if serious Democratic opposition to Obama on the war arises in Congress -- the Republican Party will be standing with the president, if not pushing an even greater escalation of the war.

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War critic and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell told me last year that Afghanistan cannot become a serious political liability for Obama as long as he has full Republican support on the war. So far, he appears to be right.


Justin Elliott

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

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