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US Lawmakers to Review More Details of US Strategy in Afghanistan, Pakistan


As they await a decision by President Barack Obama responding to a new strategic assessment from his military commander in Afghanistan, U.S. lawmakers are expected to hear more details this week from the Obama administration on the situation there.

Members of the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence are scheduled to receive a classified briefing on Wednesday from the administration on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This comes in the wake of media reports detailing parts of the strategic assessment by the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army General Stanley McChrystal.

Quoting an unclassified version of the assessment that it obtained, The Washington Post newspaper reported that General McChrystal warned the U.S. mission in Afghanistan "will likely result in failure" if more troops are not sent within the next year.

According to The Post, McChrystal said that "while the situation is serious, success is still achievable" if the U.S.-led international coalition receives proper resources and support.

In reaction to what has been reported so far, Democrats and Republicans have put their own spin on the question of how President Obama should respond.

Republicans point to media reports saying General McChrystal was asked to delay any request for additional U.S. forces while the president and his advisors review his assessment, saying that any delay would make matters worse.

Crediting President Obama with "admirable consistency" in committing to disrupting, dismantling and defeating al-Qaida in Afghanistan, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says that any failure to act decisively could undermine positive decisions the president has made.

"Even with the best strategy and the finest implementation, our efforts in Afghanistan will not succeed without the support of the American people," McConnell said. "This is why, in my view, the president must soon explain to the American people his reasons either for accepting the McChrystal plan or, if he chooses an alternative, explain why he believes the alternative is better," he said.

McConnell's call for the president to speak again to the American people about Afghanistan has been echoed by Representative John Boehner, the House Republican leader, and Republican Frank Wolf.

There are increasing suggestions from Republicans as well as Democrats that General McChrystal and the head of the U.S. Central Command, Army General David Petraeus, appear before Congress.

Lawmakers say this would go a long way to restoring the confidence of Americans in what the United States and its allies are trying to accomplish in Afghanistan.

House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer points to a similar appearance by General Petraeus prior to the U.S. military surge in Iraq, saying he believes it would be useful for General McChrystal to do the same "at some point in time."

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid says the administration needs to coordinate closely with Congress on the way forward, saying that regardless of when McChrystal comes to Capitol Hill, questions need to be answered.

"I think there are many questions that we need to have answered. That is, we need to have meaningful consultations with the administration, including our military leaders, on the decisions that are before us," Reid said.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said he agrees with General McChrystal's statement that success is achievable, adding that McChrystal is attempting to shift the emphasis toward adopting a revised strategy, while "wisely avoiding" the mistake of "focusing on the resource question before we accomplish the strategic shift."

Levin has called for new, vigorous efforts to train and expand the size of Afghanistan's military and police forces before more U.S. troops are committed.

Saying that General McChrystal is proposing a new counter-insurgency strategy that would likely involve a surge of U.S. forces focused on protecting Afghans from Taliban intimidation, Republican Representative Cliff Stearns says Congress should see a clearer plan before more troops are deployed.

"Before we put more American troops in Afghanistan, we need a more deliberate plan with the Afghan military that includes participation by our allies and adequate support from the Afghan people and legitimate [Afghan] political leaders," Stearns said.

Democratic Senator James Webb said on Monday that it would be premature to comment on publicly reported elements of General McChrystal's recommendations. However Webb said the United States has "reached a turning point in Afghanistan as to whether we are going to formally adopt nation-building as a policy." An aide referred reporters to Webb's statements in recent hearings, calling for a clear articulation of what the Obama administration defines as the U.S. endpoint and strategy in Afghanistan.

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