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Obama Meets With Lawmakers On Afghanistan


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The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate says lawmakers in both parties will support whatever decision President Barack Obama makes about the war in Afghanistan. The comments followed a meeting Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress held with the president on Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the bipartisan group assured President Obama that he will have their backing. "Everyone, Democrats and Republicans, said 'Whatever decision you make, we will support it,'" he said.

The top Senate Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says, however, the support will not be automatic.

"I think Republicans will be able to make the decision for themselves," he said.

But McConnell says many opposition Republicans will support whatever the president decides, if his plan is supported by U.S. military commanders in the region.

"I hope that at the end of the day, the president will follow the advice of some of our finest generals, who, we believe, know what it would take to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan, prevent the comeback of the Taliban and, obviously, prevent a haven for al-Qaida," he said.

The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Army General Stanley McChrystal, is asking the president to dramatically increase the number of forces there.

While many Republicans support a troop surge, many Democrats oppose it. That could cause political problems for Mr. Obama, according to Andrew Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. "The politics of the situation is very complicated, I think and is going to make things that much more difficult for the president to sort out," he said.

Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said politics will not be the basis for Mr. Obama's eventual decision. "The president is not making his decision based on politics, but instead on what is best for this country," he said,.

After the White House meeting, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters several issues need to be addressed before the president makes his decision on how to proceed in Afghanistan. "Certainly the security issue, the governance issue, the reconstruction, or as some say, the construction, because there was nothing there before, in Afghanistan, and the diplomacy in the region," she said,.

And Republican Senator John McCain says defeating the Taliban rebels is essential to the goal of eliminating the al-Qaida terrorist network. "We all know that if the Taliban come back, the al-Qaida will come back. And they will come back to Afghanistan, and they will come back in Pakistan, where they already are," he said.

On Wednesday, the president will hold the third of five scheduled meetings on Afghanistan with his top military, diplomatic and intelligence officials. Gibbs says this meeting will focus mostly on Pakistan.

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