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Feingold: 'Overly Afghan-centric' plan 'could make the situation worse'
Agence France-Presse
Published: Friday March 27, 2009


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WASHINGTON (AFP) US lawmakers on Friday warily welcomed President Barack Obama's new Afghan war plan but openly worried about getting more NATO help and doing enough to get Pakistan to crack down on extremists.

"The proposed military escalation in Afghanistan, without an adequate strategy in Pakistan, could make the situation worse, not better," Democratic Senator Russell Feingold warned in a statement.

Feingold, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was "pleased" by Obama's focus on crushing Al-Qaeda terrorists, fighting Afghan corruption, and boosting aid for economic development and the rule of law.

But he worried "the new strategy may still be overly Afghan-centric," and stressed that "we need to fully address the inextricable links between the crisis in Afghanistan and the instability and terrorist threats in Pakistan."

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Representative John McHugh, urged colleagues to back the strategy but called for deploying another 10,000 troops and urged Obama to win more NATO support.

"All eyes now turn to the upcoming NATO summit and the administration?s efforts to sell this strategy to our allies," the lawmaker said in a statement.

McHugh also warned his colleagues against the political divisions that met then-president George W. Bush's 2007 troop "surge" in Iraq that contributed to the stunning security turnaround in that war-torn country.

"Some will attempt to reach back to the Iraq ?surge? debate, dust off the arguments used to oppose the successful strategy, and apply them to president?s new Afghanistan strategy. We cannot allow this minimalist approach to creep into the new strategy," he said.

McHugh said any congressional "benchmarks" to judge the new strategy's success must be "realistic" and not merely a tool "to narrow the president?s strategy under the guise of accountability."

"Congress has to ensure the strategy is fully funded, resourced and executed," said McHugh, who urged Obama to meet a top US general's request for about 10,000 more soldiers on top of the currently planned deployments.

Top Afghanistan commander US General David McKiernan said earlier this year that he envisioned a need for 30,000 more troops. Obama has already announced he is sending 17,000 additional soldiers and was to unveil plans Friday to send 4,000 more to train Afghan security forces.


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