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Feingold to Obama: Announce Withdrawal Timetable from Afghanistan

David Chalian

Democratic Senator Russell Feingold, seen here in 2008, has called on President Obama to announce a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan. (AFP/File/Aamir Qureshi)

The Obama administration has been keenly aware of discontent among many in its liberal base with regard to its Afghanistan policy and an expected request for additional troops following General McChrystal's upcoming assessment of the situation there.

That liberal base just got a high-profile voice to lead its charge.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-WI, called on President Obama to announce a timetable for withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. "This is a strategy that is not likely to succeed," Sen. Feingold said about the troop buildup in Afghanistan.

"After eight years, I am not convinced that pouring more and more troops into Afghanistan is a well thought out policy," said Feingold. The liberal Democrat said he has expressed his reservations with President Obama, Admiral Mullen, and others inside the administration and he says he has "never been convinced they have a good answer."

"I think it is time we start discussing a flexible timetable so that people around the world can see when we are going to bring our troops out," said Feingold. "Showing the people there and here that we have a sense about when it is time to leave is one of the best things we can do," he added.

Sen. Feingold didn't offer up a specific timetable for when he would like to see American troops out of Afghanistan. The senator opposed the war in Iraq and eventually became a leading voice among Democrats in pushing the Bush administration to adopt a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.

In an interview with the editorial board of The Post-Crescent in Appleton, WI this afternoon, Sen. Feingold highlighted that the three top terrorist targets originally in Afghanistan - Osama bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and Mullah Omar - are now in Pakistan.

"Aren't we helping to drive more extremists into Pakistan?," Feingold asked. He went on to call Pakistan the home of the "witch's brew of every kind of nightmare."

Sen. Feingold pointed to Af-Pak Ambassador Richard Holbrooke's recent comments when asked about what success will look like in Afghanistan. "We'll know it when we see it," said Holbrooke.

"That's not good enough for me," Feingold responded.

Mr. Feingold said that he believes the United States needs to maintain its ability to go after Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and continue operations there to "make sure we can do the most we can in the remaining time."

The Wisconsin Democrat is starting to be a bit of a liberal thorn in the President's (left) side and has some Democrats wondering if he may be plotting a 2012 primary challenge to Mr. Obama.

His call for an Afghanistan timetable withdrawal today comes on the heels of his pressuring the president to include a public option in whatever health care reform bill he signs into law. "I am not interested in passing health care reform in name only. Without a public option, I don't see how we will bring real change to a system that has made good health care a privilege for those who can afford it," Feingold said last week in response to some perceived wavering on the public option from Obama administration officials.

Last April, Sen. Feingold issued a report card on President Obama's handling of "rule of law" issues and gave him a "D" on his administration's posture on "state secrets."

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