Lawmakers From Both Parties Raise Concerns Over Afghan War Escalation


WASHINGTON (Associated Press) - Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) voiced their concerns Sunday about the war in Afghanistan, its cost, and the troop increase that President Obama is expected to announce on Tuesday.

Sen. Levin, the leading Senate Democrat on military matters, said Sunday that President Obama's anticipated plan for significantly expanding U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan must show how those reinforcements will help increase the size of the Afghan security forces. Levin argued that more Afghan troops and police are central to succeeding in the 8-year-old war and more U.S. trainers and equipment can help meet that goal. But it's unclear, Levin said, what role tens of thousands additional combat troops will play

Sen. Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday that Congress should consider a special tax to pay for the war. The president is expected to announce an increase of up to 35,000 more U.S. forces at an annual cost of $75 billion when the nation is struggling to reduce high unemployment and foreclosure rates. The LA Times:

"I think we will have to pay for it," Lugar said in an interview on CNN. "We may wish to discuss higher taxes to pay for it."

Lugar also said he believes that Americans, already faltering in their support of the war, would not be willing to sustain the military campaign beyond five more years.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.) also voiced concerns about the cost of an escalation in Afghanistan, saying it's 'immoral' to spend money on the war during a dfficult economic timewithout finding a way to pay for it.

A war surtax has been introduced by Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.). The tax would be begin in 2001 and service members and their families would be exempt.

The lawmakers' remarks are a preview of the possible roadblocks Obama faces as he prepares to sell a broader, more expensive battle plan for Afghanistan to the American public.

Lawmakers want a greater commitment from NATO allies so the U.S. isn't footing the bill on its own.

"I've got a real problem about expanding this war where the rest of the world is sitting around and saying, 'Isn't it a nice thing that the taxpayers of the United States and the U.S. military are doing the work that the rest of the world should be doing?'" said Sen. Sanders.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said that several allied nations will offer a total of 5,000 more troops. But speaking Saturday at a news conference in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad, Brown also said Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government must meet specific benchmarks that allow foreign troops to gradually hand over control of the fighting to local forces.

Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, has recommended speeding up the growth of the Afghan army and police. He wants an overall Afghan security force of 400,000 -- 240,000 soldiers and 160,000 police officers -- by October 2013.

Levin has proposed moving that date back by a year to 2012. He says the manpower is available to support the faster timetable.

Levin appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation." Lugar and Obey appeared on CNN's "State of the Union." Sanders appeared on ABC's "This Week."

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