As the Obama administration debates the scope of troop withdrawls from Afghanistan starting this summer, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin (D-MI) said this afternoon he wants to see at least 15,000 troops withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of the year.
Levin told reporters he wants to see combat troops included with support troops. He was staking out his position on troop withdrawals ahead of the confirmation hearing he will chair on Thursday for Leon Panetta to be Secretary of Defense.
"I advocate a significant number of troops including combat troops," he said. "That's my position ... at least 15,000 by the end of this year."
Levin was responding to reports that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is advocating a small number of support troops be removed this summer. He does not expect Panetta to come to the hearing on Thursday with specific numbers, but he is calling on the president to stand by past promises.
"I think he should stick to the commitment he made that there would be a significant reduction of U.S. forces in July," Levin said. "I think that's going to be the key issue. Its a critically imporant issue."
He also noted that troop withdrawals are a spending issue.
"There are billions of dollars involved in this decision," he said.