Senators split on exit strategy and funding to continue war in Afghanistan

The second ranking Republican in the Senate urged President Barack Obama not to speak of an exit strategy when he announces his Afghanistan decision Tuesday, fearing it would send a message to allies and enemies that the U.S. isn’t committed to staying in the country.

“I really hope we can stay away from all this talk of an exit strategy,” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) told “Fox News Sunday.”

{mosads}”It tells the Taliban just to lay low until we leave,” he said.

Kyl also said a public exit strategy would reinforce fears of the Pakistanis that the U.S. won’t stick around when the situation deteriorates.

Pakistan has only begun committing to a serious effort in Afghanistan “because they believed we’d be there with them.”

“We cannot leave until the mission is accomplished, and that’s a message we have to send to our friends and our enemies alike,” Kyl said.

But Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, said an exit strategy would put the pressure on the Karzai government and Pakistan to pick up the slack themselves.

The U.S. military shouldn’t “just give them an open check” and “say we’re going to be there forever,” Bayh said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The message to our allies should be that “we are with you, we’re here for the duration as long as you do your part,” Bayh said. ” I think that’s the kind of exit strategy [Obama’s] talking about.”

Kyl also said he hopes the president will announce a swift execution of a troop escalation, rather than a gradual buildup.

“Let’s don’t have talk of a phased deployment” in which the government would “send a few troops and see what happens,” Kyl said.

“You need to put everybody you can as quickly as you can and knock out the enemy.”

Kyl said Obama would enjoy almost full support from Senate Republicans if he sends near the number of troops that Gen. Stanley McChrystal requested.

“This is not a political issue for us,” Kyl said. “We believe we’ve got to prevail over the Taliban and al-Qaeda.”

Bayh said he wouldn’t hold the president to the 40,000-troop recommendation made by McChrystal, which he characterized as just one factor of many.

“These are just recommendations; they’re not the ten commandments, after all,” Bayh said.

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Obama must explain why a surge of combat troops in Afghanistan would help improve the status of Afghan forces.

“The key here is an Afghan surge, not an American surge,” Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Levin said Obama’s ability to earn support from his own party will depend on tying the surge to an improvement in Afghanistan’s military.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said on ABC’s “This Week” that he had “real concerns” with sending more troops to Afghanistan.

The concern in part stems from the expected cost, an estimated $1
million per troop. Sanders said the financial burden was too high with
a $12 trillion debt, and that other nations should bear more of the
financial burden for the war.

But Republican Lindsey Graham (S.C.) said he supported adding troops
to stabilize the region. “The whole world is watching what we are
doing,” Graham said on “This Week.”

“Our national security depends on getting it right in Afghanistan,” he said.

Graham, though, rejected the idea posed by House Appropriations
Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wisc.) to pay for the war with a
surtax. Graham said Congress should cut spending to find the money to
pay for the war.

Levin seemed to back off his earlier support for a
war surtax to fund the escalation. While saying he still favored the
tax on the rich, Levin acknowledged it probably wouldn’t happen.

“In the middle of a recession we’re probably not going to be able to increase taxes to pay for it,” he said.

“That should have happened some time ago,” he said of the surtax.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the ranking member of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, said Congress would have to address how to
pay for the additional troops in the coming weeks.

“We’re going to have to have a serious talk about budget and about
the $1 trillion deficit we are in now and will continue to be in,”
Lugar told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Lugar said Congress should set aside the debate on healthcare reform to “talk now about the essentials, the war and money.”

But Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said the Senate should push forward on
healthcare, calling reform “essential to our economic future.”

Reed also voiced his support for additional troops, calling the war in Afghanistan critical to national security.

Tags Barack Obama Bernie Sanders Carl Levin Jack Reed Lindsey Graham

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