White House disputes pessimistic Senate Afghanistan report

The White House said Wednesday that it welcomed a Senate Foreign Relations Committee report critical of U.S. policies in Afghanistan, but it said some of the report's conclusions are wrong.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said that President Obama disagrees with the negative picture portrayed in the report of millions of dollars being wasted on unsustainable investments and nation-building in the country.

The report said that aid being used for projects in area where the Taliban have been cleared could be wasted as those projects or investments might not last after American forces withdraw. It concluded that the U.S. was spending $320 million a month on aid with limited success.

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"It's important to note that Afghanistan has made significant progress," Carney said. "And the presumption that our assistance has contributed little and that Afghanistan has made no progress is just simply wrong. We disagree with that."

Obama is currently considering how many troops to bring home when the drawdown starts next month.

Carney said that "civilian assistance is important, but it represents a small proportion of the overall costs of our mission in Afghanistan."

"But it is an essential component of our critical national security strategy in Afghanistan," Carney said. "And remember, if the goal here is to transition more and more responsibility to the Afghans and the Afghan security forces, it's important that the civilian assistance part of this be effective so that it builds capacity that allows us to do just that."

Carney acknowledged that the White House agrees that sustainability is "an issue."


"That's why so many of our efforts are focused on building institutions so that Afghans can sustain the progress that has been made over these last several years," Carney said.

Carney was somewhat dismissive of the report, noting that Obama and his national security team are "very clear-eyed about the challenges in Afghanistan."

"I'm not suggesting that we know everything already, and therefore don't need outside inputs," Carney said. "We obviously do and welcome them, but we're not learning a great deal of information about the challenges that we face in Afghanistan here."

The report comes as Democrats and Republicans are increasingly souring on the costly war now in its 10th year.

Obama spoke with Afghan President Hamid Karzai by secure video conference Wednesday morning for about an hour.

Karzai recently demanded that U.S. and its allies stop Predator drone attacks that have resulted in some civilian casualties.

Carney would not say whether Obama rejected that notion, but he did say the mission in Afghanistan is to disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat al Qaeda."

"And we are prosecuting that mission," Carney said.

During the video conference, Obama expressed "sorrow" for the civilians that have been killed.

But, Carney said, "both leaders noted that the Taliban are responsible for the great majority of civilian losses and agreed that every loss of civilian life is a tragedy and undermines our mission that focuses on protecting the population."