Congressman Bruce Braley says he has “very serious reservations” about the Afghan War plan President Obama outlined Tuesday night.

“As I listened to the president’s speech, he went to great efforts to try to make the case for why he is escalating the war in Afghanistan,” Braley says.  “But I didn’t have a strong feeling at the conclusion of his speech the he had made the case that is going to be convincing to the American people about why this additional buildup is going to accomplish the goals that he set out.” 

Braley suggests Obama should have listed some “clear cut” benchmarks about an “exit strategy” in the speech.  Obama said he wants to bring the war “to a successful conclusion.” 

“I’m not sure anybody knows right now what that means,” Braley says.

President Obama has said the main target in Afghanistan — and in nearby Pakistan — is Al Qaeda, the terrorist network behind the September 11th, 2001 attacks on American soil.  Braley says the cost of reaching that objective must be clearly explained to the American people.

“This war has already been going on for nearly nine years — almost twice as long as World War II where we fought the largest single military engagement in the history of the world on two fronts, in two oceans, and there is a limit to the patience of the American people and I think that that patience is being tested,” Braley says.

Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, is in the middle of his second term in the U.S. House, so he was not a member of congress in 2001 when all but one member of the House voted to authorize the war in Afghanistan.  Braley says President Obama hasn’t yet convinced a majority of House Democrats that an escalation of the war in Afghanistan is necessary.

“The president still has a lot of clarification in terms of the specific details of his proposal before he will be in a position where it will have widespread support among members of the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives,” Braley says. 

Braley made his comments Wednesday afternoon during a telephone conference call with reporters.  The other four Iowans who serve in congress issued written statements late Tuesday and on Wednesday, following the president’s speech.  Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Mount Vernon, has said he will “carefully…review” the president’s plan, but Loebsack isn’t saying much beyond that.  Congressman Leonard Boswell, a Democrat from Des Moines who is a Vietnam Vet, issued a statement saying he is “pleased” President Obama does not plan to make Afghanistan an “open-ended nation building exercise.”  Boswell added that “there are no easy solutions in war, but President Obama’s plan provides a clear strategy to transfer control to Afghan forces and to bring our men and women home.” 

Congressman Tom Latham, a Republican from Ames, said he applauds President Obama’s “increased commitment to training Afghan forces,” but Latham criticized the president for setting an “arbitrary withdrawal date.”  Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Kiron, said by “announcing an exit strategy” Obama has ensured “defeat” in Afghanistan.