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US Congressmen Advocate Increased Security for Afghanistan - 2002-07-07

Leading members of the U.S. Congress say the United States must do more to provide security for Afghanistan. They spoke on American television, as Afghans mourned their assassinated vice-president, Haji Abdul Qadir.

The strongest words came from Senator Evan Bayh, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

During an appearance on the Fox News Sunday television program, he was asked if it is time to put more U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan. He nodded his head in agreement. "We went to war to clean this country out," he said, "and I don't see why we should take half measures to try and stabilize it, to make sure it doesn't become a protectorate for terrorists once again. And, if all you do is secure the capital and allow instability to fester around the country, I think we are running a real risk that the gains we made during the war could be lost by an insufficient peace."

The Indiana Democrat said the United States went to war and won. But, he added, increasing instability in Afghanistan could put that victory at risk.

In an interview broadcast on NBC's Meet the Press, Senator Bob Graham, the chairman of the Senate intelligence panel, also cited the need for greater U.S. involvement in Afghan security. He stopped short, however, of calling for an increased troop commitment. Senator Graham said, "We have had a series of situations, in which the U-S military has been committed and has performed superbly, from Haiti to the Balkans, and now in Afghanistan. Where we haven't had equal success is following up with those forces that could provide central law and order, and begin the process of restoring the basic institutions upon which any society depends."

Senator Graham said that the assassination of Haji Abdul Qadir was a source of considerable concern. The Florida Democrat called it a throwback to the old Afghanistan, and a setback to the establishment of a new Afghanistan.

Appearing on the same program, Senator Chuck Hagel said the assassination underscores the need for a continuing investment of men, effort and resources. The Nebraska Republican, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said strong, sustained American leadership is needed to stabilize the area. "If we lose there," he said, "if this goes backward, this will be a huge defeat for us, symbolically, in that region, in the world, for our word, confidence in Americans all over the world."

When asked about the congressional comments, White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush believes the best way for U.S. troops to help secure Afghanistan is by training an Afghan army, rather than by participating in an international peacekeeping force.

Mr. Fleischer spoke in the state of Maine, where the president is spending the weekend with his parents and other family members.