Dems, GOP express doubts about Obama's Afghan plans

President Obama's request for tens of billions of dollars to fund a troop surge in Afghanistan was greeted with bipartisan skepticism on Capitol Hill as top administration officials made their case for the ambitious strategy.

In a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that the deployment was critically needed to extinguish terrorist groups in both Afghanistan and Pakistan whose ultimate goal is to attack the United States.

“If anything, I think the situation is more serious today than it was a few years ago because of the attacks of the Taliban on Pakistan in Pakistan,” Gates told Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. “This area that we are talking about, Afghanistan in particular, is the epicenter of global extremist jihadism. If that leadership were to disappear and al Qaeda were defeated in Afghanistan and Pakistan, you would face a serious and significantly less important threat from this region.”

Despite the case made by Obama's Cabinet, Democratic lawmakers were skeptical about the plan's high cost and chances for success given problems with corruption in the Afghan government and its notoriously weak and ineffective security forces.

“I believe the principal mission of U.S. troop increases in Afghanistan should be to accelerate the transition to Afghan forces taking the lead for providing Afghan security,” committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said. “Where I have questions is whether the rapid deployment of a large number of U.S. combat forces without an adequate number of Afghan security forces for our troops to partner with serves that mission.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who supports the troop increase, criticized the 2011 withdrawal timeline Obama promised when he announced the troop surge in a speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday.

“A withdrawal date only emboldens al Qaeda and the Taliban while dispiriting our Afghan partners and making it less likely that they will risk their lives to take our side in this fight,” McCain said.

In a tense exchange with Gates and Mullen, McCain managed to secure a promise that the administration would conduct a “thorough review of how we're doing” in December 2010 before deciding whether the 2011 withdrawal can commence in July.

Most of the opposition to the troop surge in both the House and Senate will come from the anti-war faction on the left. About half of the 258 House Democrats could vote against supplemental funding for the increase and they will be joined by a handful of Republicans.

Rep. Barbara Lee, co-chairwoman of the House Progressive Caucus made up of more than 80 liberals, said Obama's decision to send more troops was disappointing.

“We can't continue to send more troops and expect different results,” Lee said. “Our military is already stretched too thin. Afghanistan needs a political solution not a military one. Adding more troops won't change this important fact.”

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

PoliticsUSwashington examiner

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Chelsea Hung, who owns Washington Bakery and Restaurant in Chinatown with her mother, said the restaurant is only making about 30 percent of pre-pandemic revenues. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Chinatown’s slow recovery has business owners fearing for the future

Lack of outside visitors threatens to push neighborhood into ‘downward spiral’

San Francisco Symphony Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen and members of the orchestra were thrilled to be back inside Davies Symphony Hall on May 6 in a program for first responders featuring string works by Jean Sibelius, George Walker, Carl Nielsen, Caroline Shaw and Edward Grieg. (Courtesy Stefan Cohen/San Francisco Symphony)
SF Symphony makes joyful return to Davies Hall

Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts program for first responders and community leaders

Students in an after-school community hub move quickly through a social circle as they play a game at the Mission YMCA on Friday, May 7, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Parents scramble for ‘Summer Together’ spaces

City program offering free camps sees high demand, confusion over enrollment

Jazz pianist and composer Jon Jang is an instructor at Community Music Center in the Mission District. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Jon Jang composes bittersweet symphonies

Musician-activist’s works are steeped in civil rights history

Calfire (Shutterstock)
Wildfires burn around Northern California during first red flag weekend of the year

Firefighters around the region battled wildfires all day Saturday, starting less than… Continue reading

Most Read