Friday, September 11, 2009

Wire: Ranking Defense Lawmaker Complicates Obama's Afghan Strategy

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

The good war suddenly goes bad....

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2009 -- Newswire services today reported that the debate whether to send more combat troops to Afghanistan took a twist reminiscent of the Iraq conflict when the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday advised not sending any more U.S. combat troops to Afghanistan beyond those already approved by President Obama until more Afghan security forces are trained.

FOX News reported that, speaking on the eighth anniversary of the date the United States was attacked by terrorists trained in Afghanistan, Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., called for a shift in U.S. efforts toward more trainers, who could, in part, be supplied by NATO allies. He said he would like a plan for Afghanistan that would replicate the "Sons of Iraq" strategy to separate low and mid-level Taliban fighters in Afghanistan from the leadership of that terrorist group.

If the shift is not made, "I think it's less likely we'll succeed in Afghanistan," Levin said.

Republicans immediately described Levin's remarks as the same sound of surrender by Democrats during the dark days of the Iraq war, FOX said.

FOX News noted the following details:
"Many of the Democrats raising questions about our efforts in Afghanistan are the same voices who declared General Petraeus a failure in Iraq before his new strategy even had a chance to succeed. They were wrong then. They are wrong now," said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services panel, said he "could not disagree more profoundly" with Levin on the call to limit troop deployments.

"If we await the day when the Afghan National Army is increased in size and capable of carrying out all of these operations fully on its own, it may well be too late," McCain warned.

Last month, McCain traveled to Afghanistan and recommended doubling the number of Marines in Helmand province -- a southern part of the country and largest region for opium poppy farming. Currently 9,000 Marines are in Helmand.
Levin said military commanders are currently developing a plan to speed up the training of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP), and McChrystal is planning to call for an increase of the ANA to 240,000 and ANP to 160,000 by 2013.

Levin would not say what might happen if McChrystal recommends more U.S. troops be deployed to Afghanistan.

Levin's remarks follow House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comment that she sees little support for sending additional troops to Afghanistan. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., previously has called for a timeline for withdrawing U.S. forces, FOX News said.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Source: Senate Armed Services Chairman: No More U.S. Troops to Afghanistan

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