News

US Lawmakers Debate New Strategy for Afghanistan

Obama administration officials testified before Congress on Wednesday, urging lawmakers from both major political parties to support President Barack Obama's Afghanistan strategy.

Obama administration officials testified before Congress on Wednesday, urging lawmakers from both major political parties to support President Barack Obama's Afghanistan strategy and his decision to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to the conflict. The President is facing resistance to his strategy from Republicans and Democrats.
 
The concerns were expressed as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen testified to two congressional panels.

President Obama faces opposition from the liberal wing of his party, with lawmakers in the House of Representatives progressive caucus sounding their concerns on Capitol Hill.

On the House floor, Texas Democrat Lloyd Doggett asserted that the president is setting the stage for an even longer conflict, while Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich argued that the people of Afghanistan want U.S. troops out of their country.

DOGGETT:  "Troop escalation by 40 percent, then de-escalation, all within 18 months is totally unrealistic.  We have been fighting in Afghanistan on the installment plan -- a few more troops, a few more months, and many more billions.  2011 will not mark the end of this war; it will just mark the beginning of the next installment."
KUCINICH:  "We played all sides in Afghanistan and all sides want us out.  They don't want our presence, our control, our troops, our [aerial] drones, our way of life.  We're fighting the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.  What part of 'Get out!' do we not understand?"

President Obama set a July 2011 target for beginning to withdraw U.S. forces, saying he believes the roughly 18 months until then will provide enough time to bolster the Afghan military, police and central government.

Gates, Clinton and Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that failure to defeat al-Qaida and Taliban forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan would make the United States vulnerable to future attacks.

The need to defeat al-Qaida and enhance Afghanistan's security, Gates said, cannot be separated, and the stakes are high - not only in Afghanistan, but throughout the region. "While al-Qaida is under great pressure now and [is] dependent on the Taliban and other extremist groups for sustainment, the success of the Taliban would vastly strengthen al-Qaida's message to the Muslim world, that violent extremists are on the winning side of history," he said.

While praising the troop increase, Republican lawmakers such as Senator John McCain and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen say the president is mistaken in stating a timeline for withdrawal.

MCCAIN:  "A withdrawal date only emboldens al-Qaida 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."
LEHTINEN:  "Before the strategy is implemented, the president has placed a deadline on our commitment and a timeline for the withdrawal of our troops.  What message does this telegraph to the enemy?"

Secretary Clinton said she and other officials agree that the situation in Afghanistan is "serious and worsening," although she says events there and in neighboring Pakistan are "not as negative as frequently portrayed in public."

Clinton pointed to what she and Gates called "encouraging responses" from NATO partners. "We anticipate a significant commitment of additional forces by our NATO/ISAF partners as well as additional money because, of course, we want to establish a robust trust fund for both the Afghan national army and police," she said.

Addressing Clinton directly, Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher asserted that the president's strategy will not work. "We have got the same policy that has not worked - with perhaps a few more troops, perhaps some more money - but basically the same strategy that has not worked.  And yet we're going to send 30,000 more of our boys and women into Afghanistan to do the fighting that should be done and could be done by the Afghan villagers themselves," he said.

Many lawmakers remain highly skeptical about help the Obama administration says it can expect from Pakistan, which is receiving billions of dollars more in aid from the United States under legislation Congress approved this year.

House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman wanted to know what incentives Pakistan has to act against the Taliban, beyond its recent military offensives along the border in Waziristan and the Swat Valley. "The way it looks, these operations are focused on the Pakistani Taliban, and not against those extremists and Taliban that are using Pakistan as a sanctuary to launch operations in Afghanistan and against our troops," he said.

Democrat Eliot Engel voiced concern to Admiral Mullen about the U.S. becoming mired in a prolonged war.

ENGEL:  "My fear, as is the fear of so many others, is that we could easily get bogged down in an endless war." 
MULLEN:  "These troops, this strategy, the civilian surge that goes with it, the opportunity we have because Pakistan is making progress, we have got a new president in Afghanistan, we have got the right leadership on the ground, we've got the right leadership in the [U.S.] embassy - that now is the time and we can actually turn this thing around."

Money for military operations in Afghanistan and in Iraq, where U.S. forces are in the process of withdrawing, is included in defense appropriations legislation, currently the subject of House-Senate negotiations.

President Obama has committed to paying for war needs through the regular budgetary process, unlike during the Bush administration, which often sent Congress supplemental funding requests.

But House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha says he expects the cost of the U.S. force increase to be $40 billion rather than the $30 billion President Obama mentioned, adding that he expects the Obama administration will also need to ask Congress for additional war funding.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs