Politics

Senators Escalate Call for Obama to Send More Troops to Afghanistan

Top Republican senators escalated their call Sunday for President Obama to grant Gen. Stanley McChrystal's request for more troops in Afghanistan, and one prominent Democrat warned that a failure to do so could jeopardize U.S. forces. 

The Obama administration is deep in deliberations over whether to build on its counterinsurgency strategy with thousands more troops in Afghanistan or focus more on taking out top Al Qaeda targets, particularly in Pakistan. The bloody clash this weekend at the Pakistan army headquarters, where commandos freed dozens of hostages early Sunday after militants attacked the facility, underscored the instability in the region. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the attack emphasized the "danger of the Taliban not only in Afghanistan but in Pakistan as well." 

But he said any attempt by the administration to scale back the fight against the Taliban in favor of a tactical battle against Al Qaeda would damage security. 

"They are different. But they are inter-connected," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation." 

He said Republicans would "almost overwhelmingly support" the president if he opts to grant McChrystal's request for more troops, estimated to be for about 40,000. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also said the counterinsurgency strategy pursued by McChrystal is "really critical." She said the American people don't have the stomach to stay in Afghanistan for another 10 years, but that the mission there is in "serious jeopardy" and Obama has an obligation to follow his commander's advice. 

"I don't know how you put somebody in who was as crackerjack as General McChrystal, who gives the president very solid recommendations, and not take those recommendations if you're not going to pull out," Feinstein said on ABC's "This Week." 

"If you don't want to take the recommendations, then you put your people in such jeopardy." 

She suggested some elements of the Taliban could be won over, but warned that the Taliban in Afghanistan will have a "dramatic impact" on Pakistan if allowed to flourish. 

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., also said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the Taliban and Al Qaeda will become "inextricably tied." 

McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the president is right to take his time and deliberate but that a failure to accept the advice of his military commanders would be "an error of historic proportions." 

But many Democrats are pushing back on a call for more U.S. troops, questioning whether a larger U.S. military footprint will help change the course of the war. 

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Afghanistan needs a surge of Afghan forces, not of U.S. forces. He said more trainers are needed, but not more U.S. combat troops. 

"The president has to look at a much broader perspective than the commander's request, as important as that is," Levin said. 

Obama has held a series of meetings with top military commanders and diplomatic advisers, as he moves toward a decision on how to proceed in Afghanistan. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also on the Armed Services Committee, said Sunday on "Meet the Press" that more trainers are desired -- but that with Afghan forces getting "slaughtered," the need for U.S. reinforcements is greater. 

"Without better security, more combat power, we're going to lose in Afghanistan," he said.