Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers have spoken out ahead of President Barack Obama's speech on Afghanistan, saying they oppose sending additional troops to the country, and that Congress should have the opportunity to vote on a troop surge. For his part, Republican Senator John McCain says he supports sending more troops, but he is worried about reports that the president may announce a timeline for ending U.S. military operations in that country.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers wasted no time in expressing their opposition to President Obama's plans to increase the number of U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan, holding a news conference before the speech late Tuesday.
Democratic Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin has been a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, and said a surge of U.S. forces to Afghanistan would be a serious mistake that could further destabilize Pakistan. Senator Feingold threatened that Congress may take action if President Obama announces a substantial increase of U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
"Action can include obviously not permitting funding for additional troops, it can include resolutions for timeframes to withdraw troops, as many of us have worked on together with regard to Iraq, and other approaches that we would be open to," said Senator Feingold. "But as far as I am concerned, everything would be on the table in terms of trying to prevent this error from occurring."
Senator Feingold was joined at the news conference by several other lawmakers, including Republican Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina. Jones said a lot of voters came up to him when he was home for the Thanksgiving holiday expressing strong skepticism about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.
"I cannot tell you the number of people, and I am not exaggerating, that said 'What are we trying to accomplish in Afghanistan? How about our country? We can't even fix the streets in your district, Congressman'", said Representative Jones.
Democratic Congressman James McGovern of Massachusetts said that sending tens of thousands of more troops to Afghanistan would only make it much harder for the United States to extricate itself from the problems there, and he said Congress has a big role to play.
"I would urge that before a single additional troop is sent that Congress has a chance to fully debate this proposal and have an up or down vote," said James McGovern.
Speaking after Tuesday's Republican policy luncheon, Republican Senator John McCain took a very different view, saying he strongly supports sending more troops to Afghanistan. The Republican presidential nominee who ran against Mr. Obama last year said he is concerned about reports that the president might announce a timeframe for pulling U.S. forces out of the country.
"I think those dates for withdrawal are dictated by conditions," said John McCain. "The way that you win wars is to break the enemy's will, not to announce dates that you are leaving."
Lawmakers will have a chance to question high-ranking Obama administration officials about the new strategy for Afghanistan at hearings in both House and Senate committees Wednesday and Thursday. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be among those testifying.