The state of war and defense
President Obama greets U.S. troops in Afghanistan during a December visit.
January 25th, 2011
01:09 PM ET

The state of war and defense

President Obama is looking to put the finishing touches on the U.S. military presence in Iraq. A year ago, troop levels were at 112,000, slowly dwindling to the long-stated goal of getting U.S. combat forces out.

Last summer, the transition was officially completed, leaving about 50,000 American troops solely in advisory roles.

Meanwhile, the State Department is sending in a like number of civilian workers to try to build a politically stable Iraq.

"However, the Republicans in the House have been talking very loudly about significantly reducing State Department spending," points out Winslow Wheeler of the Center for Defense Information. "And they haven't specified how that might affect State Department activities in Iraq."

Obama wants to do for Afghanistan what's been done in Iraq, withdrawal-wise. He's planned to start reducing combat forces in Afghanistan in the coming summer, with the goal of having Afghans in control of their own security three years later.

However, Wheeler says U.S. efforts to train and motivate Afghan security forces are going "not at all well." The president's own troop surge has helped rout some Taliban and al Qaeda strongholds, but Wheeler worries that reports of how Afghan security personnel perform "vary from not very helpful to completely useless."

The president's upcoming budget proposal is expected to call for $150 billion in military spending to go to the two hot spots. In the war zones, cost-cutting gives way to the universal notion that you send whatever it takes to support troops in harm's way.

But when it comes to overall defense spending - 20 percent of the nation's budget - even Republicans are starting to question some of what the Pentagon spends and whether all programs are worth it.

On "Meet the Press" on Sunday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor remarked, "No one can defend the expenditure of every dollar and cent over at the Pentagon. And we've got to be very serious to make sure that they're doing more with less, as well."

Recently, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for modest defense spending reductions, amounting to about $100 billion over five years.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Military • Politics • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Melissa Burton

    I am so tired of hearing about the war in Iraq being over. My husband (in the Army) is currently away training for a mission in Iraq. People ask me all the time why he is going over there since Obama has pulled all our troops out. There are still troops in Iraq and more on the way. 50,000 troupes serving in "advisory positions"? Give me a break!

    January 25, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • GinaMarina

      Melissa, I'm in the same boat as you. My husband is also in Iraq. I get that question all the time. Funny how we keep losing soldiers in Iraq when there are no combat missions happening. It's as if they don't count anymore. Time to get them ALL home, from both countries.

      January 25, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ThomasD

    'Not very helpful to completely useless.' Gee, who would have ever imagined that. . Get-our-people-out!

    January 25, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. craig lentz

    thatz cuz they are guarding iraqi dinar

    January 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Philip

    The largest foreign embassy in US History is in Iraq. Troops and paid militia, along with foreign trained troops recruited by US will be there for a long long time. China's future oil supply is at stake, so if the "troops" are pulled, that region of the middle-east would not stand for their lands being used by the "infidels" in order to secure cheap products for their whining and bottomless bellied citizens. Not to mention China extending US even more credit is at stake. China only produces about one-half of their energy requirements. The rest comes from the Caspian Sea basin area, where "troops" are stationed to guard the area. //If you think "troops" are there for fighting "terrorism", think again. Our own domestic terrorists run-amuck and our borders remain open for illegal's of even the terror variety to easily invade. No power on earth can stop this, and the few who would like to, we call them "terrorists" and/or ignore their complaints. How do you feel about this? Be honest.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |

      Well put,Philip. I couldn't have said it better.

      January 25, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • SPC Shackelford

      You're pointed in the right direction. It's not all about oil though. Holding military power in Iraq and Afghanistan effectively puts us on either side of Iran, an enemy of the United States of America. For some reason, it seems like not many people see that as a possible reason as to why we have such strong military presence in the two countries. I'm sure oil has a lot to do with it as well, but I think that surrounding Iran could also play a factor.

      January 25, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael O'Rourke

      Tragically enough,I believe that another war is imminent in the Middle East as the right-wing thugs in Washington,London and and Paris just won't be contented with just Afghanistan and Iraq. Sooner or later Iran,I'm afraid will be invaded so the West can complete it's Asiatic empire.

      January 25, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Philip

    P.S...feel free to ignore me too.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |

    lol who's trolling me...

    January 25, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. SPC Shackelford

    As a soldier recently returning from Afghanistan, I would say the Gov't does waste resources quite a bit overseas. Personell should be properly allocated and do the jobs they were trained to do, and without so much worry of breaking the Rules of Engagement (ROE). I'm not saying that we should be given the OK to shoot whoever we want to, but I've seen people who were scared to pull the trigger, because they didn't want to get into trouble. As the worlds most powerful military, I believe there should be fewer solid rules as to when you can use lethal force. We are highly trained to do a job, let us do it! Those who cause problems, and make bad decisions with the firepower they hold, should be dealt with by UCMJ, rather than just making it more difficult for everyone else to do what they need to do to ensure the man to their left and their right gets home safely.

    January 25, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Philip was it "well put" or not? (I wish CNN would make everyone keep their original s/n's tied to an IP address. That would at least slow the troll.)

    January 25, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Philip

    @SPC Shakelford...I haven't seen nor heard of any Iranian terrorists sneaking into our country and competing with our domestic terrorists to see who can murder the most US citizens. Have you? Iran is in the way of that which I described above. No true followers of the Koran would ever stand for the 'infidels' to use Muslim lands for any reason. Not even just to secure China's energy supply. Their religion simply does not allow them to stand idle as their homeland is invaded. I'm sure you and I would fight to the death if our homeland were invaded by anyone for any reason. (unless of course our own government were protecting the illegal invaders)

    January 25, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. fla resident

    yo monkey lips, obama your mama. how long will this charade last before you get exposed? you know you are full of crap.

    How long will it take for all the jews that voted for him, that he is the antichrist for which is about to come.

    January 25, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael O'Rourke

      Quite right,fla resident. Thank you.

      January 25, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Philip

    @fla resident...prove it. Let's see some evidence. (btw, did you know that male aligators in Fla. are going impotent, just like male fla. residents over 50? Thought you might be intersted being a local. Now, why are they going impotent? But answer the 'antichrist' querry first pls))

    January 25, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Philip

    @O'roarke....need I remind you that (D) congressmen voted "yes" for war on the Iraqi peoples. If you think that only (R) is crooked, you have been fooled by the oldest trick in history's political book. The 2 are really one. Like a big fat Elephant sporting a tiny new Donkey head. It's fat-ass rear end trips over it's front end causing the beast to land face first in it's own luxuriant dung. I know that the (R) are world famous for stumbling around like a fat retarded twelve yr. old with a double-barrel shotgun, now with full complicity on the part of a pregnant teenager contemplating another abortion(s) while making a sign saying "free the children" on one side, and "respect womens rights" on the other.

    January 25, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Philip

    Really, toaday's political scene has changed. It's not like Orwell's Animal Farm anymore. It's like Animal Farm 2: the Pigs Have United (coming soon to more war theatres near you! And don't miss the 'sneak-peek' of the new "Bagman and Robbing" literal blockbuster.)

    January 25, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Philip

    He he..."toadays". someone should have some fun with that one.

    January 25, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Marianne

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    July 14, 2012 at 4:44 am | Report abuse |