Another Top Democrat Calls for Speedier Afghan Exit

Key House Democrat says prolonged U.S. military presence 'is destabilizing.'

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A second prominent congressional Democrat on Thursday endorsed speeding the pace of removing U.S. troops from Afghanistan--just hours after at least one Afghan soldier apparently killed two more U.S. troops.

"At a point, the presence of 100,000 soldiers of another nation...is destabilizing," Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters in Washington. "That has to grate on the Afghans. We must end that as soon as we can."

The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that two Afghans--one a soldier and one a civilian--shot and killed two more U.S. military members. That brings to five the number of American troops killed by Afghans since tensions reached a new high last week in the wake of U.S. troops allegedly burning copies of the Koran and other holy Muslim texts by mistake, raising doubts about the future of the decade-old mission there.

"The only way to stop this," Smith said, "is to get our troops out."

[Photo Gallery: Afghans Protest Burning of Korans.]

The U.S. military is in the midst of removing 30,000 troops by September, which will leave about 68,000 American forces in Afghanistan. Most of the remaining troops are scheduled to be removed by the end of 2014.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, told reporters Tuesday that the new U.S.-Afghan tensions will cause a debate in Washington about getting all the troops out faster.

"There is a general concern...about recent events and how they affect the draw-down plan," Levin told reporters. "The American people are generally concerned," he said, adding "they instinctively want a faster draw-down."

Smith sounded a similar tone Thursday, saying he would support a "slightly quicker pace."

Handing over security responsibilities and ending the nearly 11-year-old operation "will not be easy now," Smith said, "or in five years."

"My sense is we've done what we can do," he said, "in terms of stabilizing [Afghanistan]."

Analysts say the new tensions could trigger the beginning of the end in Afghanistan.

"I don't see a way at this point—and I don't want to be an alarmist," says Stephanie Sanok, a former House aide now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "We have some very smart, capable people over there. But the Afghans are like, 'You have 100,000 troops here to keep us secure, but you can't? Why not just leave now?'"

  • U.S. Intel Glum on Afghanistan.
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