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Lawmakers lay out Obama's challenge in the case for more troops

By John Amick and T. Rees Shapiro

CNN -- Senators discuss what Obama must do in Afghan speech

Just as President Obama prepares to deliver a critical speech on Afghanistan Tuesday, Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) stressed that the announcement must address how the call for an expected 30,000 additional troops will fit into America's national security interests and allow Afghanis to take control of their own country.

"The president has to speak to the American people, remind them why we're there, and also lay out a strategy -- not just the reflexive response to a recommendation -- but a strategy that involves protecting the homeland from al-Qaeda," Reed said. "And that involves a presence in Afghanistan. It involves being influential in Pakistan. It involves having a combination of intelligence, counterterrorism, and counterinsurgency operations, all of these things."

Lugar agreed, saying that Obama must present his new approach with confidence, by laying out America's capacity to successfully fight this war and articulating how adding troops -- reportedly at $1 million per soldier -- will help the Afghan army take control. Lugar also touched on expense of the war, suggesting that perhaps the U.S. should put aside costly health-care reform to focus on how America will pay for what is likely to be years more work in Afghanistan.

"The war is terribly important," said Lugar, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. "Jobs and our economy are terribly important. So this may be an audacious suggestion, but I would suggest we put aside the health care debate until next year, the same way we put cap and trade and climate change and talk now about the essentials, the war and money."

Outside of actions taken by the Afghan government to root out corruption, Lugar said signs of progress may first come in the southern province of Helmand where the first several thousand additional U.S. troops are reportedly planned to go. Reed said he will look for positive steps through the defection of fighters from the Taliban coupled with Afghani villagers taking control of their areas.

"The ultimate test is that there are villages able to protect themselves, with the help of the Afghani national army and, to a degree, the United States and NATO forces, and that you're beginning to see a revival of civic activity, economic activity," Reed said.

In holding American support for the war, Lugar stressed paying for this war and any subsequent foreign policy decision down the road. Reed hopes that a continued decrease in American forces will help support within the U.S.

ABC - War, health-care spending in question

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) disagreed on how America's resources should be spent as President Obama plans an increase in troop levels in Afghanistan and the debate over health-care reform rages on in Congress.

In defending the troop increase, Graham stressed that national security is America's most important priority, but he would not commit to a war surtax, a popular proposition among congressional Democrats.

"I'd like to see an endeavor to see if we can cut current spending and find some dollars that we're spending today to pay for the war, and prioritize American spending," Graham said. "Where does our national security rate in terms of spending? Are there things that we can do in the stimulus package? Can we trim up the health care bill and other big-ticket items to pay for a war that we can't afford to lose?"

Sanders, a supporter of a strong public option in health-care reform, bemoaned more war spending in the midst of a deep recession and in a climate when "45,000 people in this country (will) die this year because they don't have access to a doctor."

"If you're going to have a presence there (Afghanistan), you just can't pass the bill on, as we did in Iraq, to our kids and our grandchildren," Sanders said. "I think that's wrong. I think that's immoral."

On the question of whether they support more reform for the Federal Reserve, both senators said they'd like to see more accountability. Sanders added that he "absolutely will not vote" for the confirmation of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to serve another term at the post. Bernanke will be on Capitol Hill Thursday for a confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee.

CBS --Levin: United States must buildup Afghan army

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) reiterated his hopes that any U.S. troop increase in Afghanistan will result in empowering Afghan troops to take responsibility for their country as soon as possible.

"If the mission is, as I hope, trying to very quickly build up the Afghan army both in size and in capability and in equipment, if the mission is to give them the capacity to take on the Taliban ... that would be one important thing to happen for Democratic support," Levin said.

Levin said the problem with supporting a war surtax now lies in the impact of the recession on middle and lower class Americans, though he would not rule out taxing upper income brackets.

"I think you could tax the upper brackets, $250,000, for instance, or more, but I don't think middle-income America is in a position now where they can pay additional taxes because the economic stress is so great here," he said.

When asked about a new report from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee outlining how American forces missed an opportunity to apprehend Osama bin Laden in December 2001, Levin said such a capture could have changed the trajectory of the now eight-year war.

"I would say there would be a good chance we would not have forces or need to have forces there," Levin said. "But this has been kind of well known for some time. We took our eye off the ball instead of moving in on him at Tora Bora, the previous administration decided to move its forces to Iraq. It was a mistake then. And I think this report of the Foreign Relations Committee just sort of reinforces that."

Republicans debate the future of moderates in party

Dede Scozzafava, the Republican candidate who was chased from a Congressional race earlier this month by a more conservative candidate, defended what she called her fiscally conservative record and agreed with party leaders about the role that moderates can play in the GOP.

Former House Majority Leader Richard Armey and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said all Republicans must know where they fit, in regard to their own districts.

"I think the Republican Party is in a great position," Armey said. "There is plenty of room for the more moderate people to win elections if they fit their district. But if in fact you nominate a person who can't win in their district, then you should expect that person will lose the election."

Gillespie said strong debate within a party isn't a sign of weakness at all.

"The fact is because there's a sense of opportunity in the Republican Party that we can win House seats and Senate seats, we have vigorous primaries going on," Gillespie said. "That is the right problem to have. It's also not constrained, by the way, to the Republican Party. If you look at the Democrats, you have and some left- wing groups now attacking Democrats who voted against a government-run health care system. So that vigorous debate goes on inside both parties."

Scozzafava said the pressure from the right in her congressional race was unwarranted. But ultimately, she said, Republicans must focus on what they have in common and what they can offer their districts.

"The most important thing we can do as Republicans I think and the leadership can do as Republicans are driving a message that brings us together," Scozzafava said. "I absolutely agree with Mr. Gillespie when we talk about things like fiscal conservatism, lower taxes, less government spending, the pocketbook issues are the things that are most important to people today."

Fox News Sunday -- Kyl argues against an 'exit strategy' in Afghanistan

Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) said President Obama's troop surge to Afghanistan is the right idea, but including an "exit strategy" in the plan is a bad one. He said that suggesting a plan that includes a way out sends the wrong message to the deploying troops, and also provides potential extremists and insurgents with a a strategy of their own: Wait it out. Kyl said Senate Republicans will support the war effort but said Obama's preemptive exit plan is a defeatist approach that could lower troop morale.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, said President Obama's plan calls for support from NATO and Afghan and Pakistan allies. He said the president's message about the new war plan is: "'We're here for the duration as long as you do your part.'"
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) did not rule out a run for the presidency in 2012 but said he is "less likely" to seek the nomination because he wanted to see a more unified party, whose leaders did not support him in his last run. He said he would wait to see how the 2010 congressional elections pan out before he commits to another campaign.

C-Span's Newsmakers -- Chu says China is making progress on energy

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, fresh from his trip with president Obama to China, said the country has made significant progress in energy efficiency, singling out the nation's revamping of its coal industry. Chu said the Chinese see the green movement as an economic opportunity. In the past year, Chu said China has passed Europe and the United States in "high technology manufacturing," including space-related products.

Chu said the world is on the verge of a second industrial revolution and that the sustainability movement will create thousands of jobs and significantly advance outdated infrastructure and technology. "Why shouldn't the U.S. take the lead?" Chu said.

At the climate summit in Copenhagen next month, he said the Obama administration will show how the U.S. is doing its part in aggressively attacking greenhouse gas emissions, despite any new legislation on greenhouse gas emissions.

By editors  |  November 29, 2009; 11:32 AM ET
Categories:  Sunday Talkies  
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Next: Huckabee says he's 'less likely' to run for president in 2012


Afghanistan is not worth fighting over. What do they have that we need in this country? Poppy's? Use the money from the Poppy crops to pay for the blood and guts spilled of some of the Soldiers who will be coming home in flag draped coffins and body bags.

Posted by: kchighsmith | December 1, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

The most appalling aspect of this decision is that it took him so long to make it. Deliberation is one thing, but Obama dithered on this one for months, destroying troop morale. Obama is showing his stripes as the true amateur that he is. He is not (in the least) qualified for his present position, but then he wouldn't be qualified as a dog-catcher either.

Posted by: flintston | November 30, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

President Obama should be bringing the troops home, and not sending more troops out to Afghanistan. He should do what is best for America, even though that may not be best for Halliburton.

Posted by: alzach01 | November 30, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I had hoped Obama would have already brought the troops back home, since he's had over 10 months in office to do it. Now he's sending another 30,00+ to war. As a veteran, I am appalled that Obama has decided to become the new war president.

Posted by: mock1ngb1rd | November 30, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

It seems as if our country has lost its mind over the course of 8 years.Let's see what we have here. We've been at war over there 8 years without any show of progress.Our standard corrupt leader we installed had to overdo it.We have spent enough to have performed social and medical miracles for years. We are aided by about 50 other countries. They are aided by a few. We have the world's greatest Air Force. The don't have an Air Force.We have night vision and radar. They don't. We have ultra modern weapons. Some of theirs are made by hand in Pakistan. We have a Navy. They dont...At what point do we cut out? This is like playing a game with someone and not stopping until you win. If you win.That "Super Power" tag is only gonna work on people that don't understand English unless we either get the serious upper hand real soon or we decide enough is enough and we're starting to look like fools.

Posted by: rl_esteves_sr | November 30, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Obama would be wise to pull out of Afghanistan instead of doing what he's doing. He is making a terrible mistake.

Posted by: mock1ngb1rd | November 29, 2009 11:01 PM | Report abuse

I find it hard to believe that all the liberal Americans who voted for this anti war candidate, will be able to stomach 30 K plus new fresh souls into the "Grave Yard of Empires"! Have we not learned from our own misfortunes in Vietnam and the Soviets misfortunes in Afghanistan to plant somebody's Son or Daughter in harms’ way?

What is our objective there? To defeat Bin Laden and Al Qaeda? Folks there are in Yemen, Somalia, Bali, the Philippines, Chechnya, Yugoslavia, London, Aurora Colorado, The US Army (Ft. Hood) you name it they are there.

Until Non Muslims wake up and realize there is a Global war, and guess who is not winning, we are doom to defeat.

Now we have a Community Organizer as our Commander in Chief, who does not have one hour in a military uniform. Wonder if Harvard ever taught him combat 101? Thank God I am retired and not wearing the nation’s uniform anymore.

Hope the DOD has contacted the Defense Logistics division to make sure we have plenty of body bags..............

Posted by: fergy1963 | November 29, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Lugar has it backwards. I suggest we set aside Afghanistan and do Health Care here. How about nation building in the USA and not in a rathole overseas? The American public has had it with paying the bills, then having all their needs go unmet. Time to pull the plug on America's oveseas bases and empire. Ron Paul was right.

Posted by: allen_osuno | November 29, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) said President Obama's troop surge to Afghanistan is the right idea, but including an "exit strategy" in the plan is a bad one.

If the United States accepts the plan of the general to occupy large areas of Afghanistan, and wait for the Afghans to be willing to fight and defeat the Taliban, the exit strategy or endgame is obvious.

Our troops leave Afghanistan when the Afghans have defeated the Taliban, or our troops leave when with mounting losses of Americans the United States decides it will no longer wait for Afghans to be willing to defeat the Taliban.

Posted by: bsallamack | November 29, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

""I think the Republican Party is in a great position," Armey said. "There is plenty of room for the more moderate people to win elections if they fit their district. But if in fact you nominate a person who can't win in their district, then you should expect that person will lose the election.""

Ok, so why did the Republicans Conservative wing rush into the 23rd and run Scozzafava, (who COULD have won) out and install a carpet bagger who couldn't?

It is all code words. "Big Tent" means "YOU have to vote for US." "Room for Moderates" means RINOs need not apply.

"Great Opportunities" means "Better to go down in a landslide than let the center get its turn at running the party."

Keep it up, people, there isn't any sign of a resurgent American Reform Party (yet) and every million more voters you tell to do it your way or find someone else to vote for who take you at your word is a few more Congressional districts that go blue in November.

BUT, BUT, Purity is all about what it is all about, isn't it?

Posted by: ceflynline | November 29, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

o bama 33 K troops in stead of 40 K.. and it took him 3 months to decide what everyone knew he was going to pick anyway..

Posted by: tru-indy | November 29, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

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