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US Lawmaker Urges Creation of Bipartisan Panel to Support Afghanistan Policy



Pointing to what he calls eroding public support for the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan, a key Republican lawmaker is urging President Barack Obama to again lay out clearly for Americans what he believes is at stake there. U.S. lawmakers received a classified briefing on Wednesday from the Obama administration about Afghanistan.

Congressman Frank Wolf was the author of legislation that created the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan panel that issued a report in 2006 assessing U.S. strategy in Iraq.

In a letter to President Obama, he outlines his concern that national confidence in the Afghanistan war effort is fading, although events in Afghanistan show the al-Qaida and Taliban threat has increased.

While he recognizes that President Obama has said repeatedly that failure in Afghanistan would risk U.S. national security, Wolf says the president needs to do more.

"Political and popular will is eroding, which places our commanders and troops on the ground in a perilous position," Wolf said. "Polling indicates, including today's Washington Post, a shift in support by the American people and in recent days key leaders in Congress have publicly raised doubts about the way forward in Afghanistan."

This week, Senator Carl Levin, the Democrat who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed concern about any decision to send additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Levin said the United States and NATO need to do more to increase the numbers and training of Afghan military and police forces.

President Obama said on Wednesday there is no "immediate decision pending" on whether to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, adding he is determined to get the strategy there right, before making "determinations about resources."

General Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is expected to request adding to the 65,000 U.S. troops there now.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen told Congress this week he expects more troops will be required.

"It is very clear to me [that] we will need more resources," the admiral said.

Representative Wolf is calling for the creation of a bipartisan panel composed of nationally-respected figures who would support the strategy being developed by U.S. military commanders, and assess progress and resources needed.

Wolf says such a panel could "reinvigorate" national confidence in the war effort. But he goes further to urge President Obama to speak again to the American people about the stakes in Afghanistan.

"To address the nation and clearly outline several things: Why we are in Afghanistan, what is at stake and what is our plan. The American people have to know all three," he said.

Members of Congress received a classified briefing from Obama administration officials on Wednesday about the situation in Afghanistan.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, a Demoract from Missouri described the sessions as an update on the situation in Afghanistan, adding it covered General McChrystal's assessment of what resources will be needed to implement President Obama's strategy.

Congressional Quarterly, a news organization covering the U.S. Congress, quoted an unclassified summary it obtained as listing U.S. objectives in Afghanistan and Pakistan, measures of progress toward achieving them, and stating a U.S. goal of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al-Qaida in both countries and preventing their return in the future.

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