Liberal Democrats already unhappy with President Barack Obama over his Afghanistan policy may reach a breaking point if he calls for sending more U.S. troops to the region — a request that many are bracing for based on a new military strategy report.
Lawmakers have yet to be briefed on the classified plan released last week by the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal. The report, which assesses the military situation and revamps counterinsurgency plans, does not specifically seek a troop increase but relies more heavily on troops.
Many progressive Democrats are concerned that it intrinsically means that more troop requests are on the horizon.
“My conclusion is that someone is urging the president to get more troops. That would be a mistake,— Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said.
McGovern, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said anti-war Democrats are unlikely to approve funds for more troops since they have growing concerns about a perception that the U.S. is occupying Afghanistan.
While Democrats are “thrilled— to have a president who supports many of their positions, McGovern said there is only so much that can be done when working with the “incompetent and corrupt— government of Afghanistan.
“Even a brilliant team cannot overcome the inadequacies of a broken government,— said the Massachusetts Democrat.
Congressional leaders including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have endorsed Obama’s policy toward the region.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that he thinks Democrats support Obama’s plan to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, but he stopped short of saying he supported sending more troops to the region.
“We’ll want to see a plan, a plan that Members conclude can be successful,— Hoyer said. “The president’s made it very clear that he believes that if we’re going to fight terrorism, that’s the venue to fight terrorism.—
The Majority Leader added: “I think Members largely believe that … unfortunately, in 2003, we took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan, and we didn’t finish the job that we set out to do.—
Another liberal Democrat, Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), said she has been opposed to Obama’s policies for Afghanistan since he got to the White House and has demonstrated her opposition by voting against the supplemental appropriations bill funding the war and by sending letters to Obama.
“I’m not happy at all,— said Waters, warning that war critics are prepared to show muscle on the issue in the coming weeks.
“It’s just a matter of a very short period of time before there will be a very, very big outcry and pushback and a call for our soldiers to be returned,— Waters said. She said to expect frustrated Democrats and Republicans to make Afghanistan a bigger focus following Obama’s speech tonight on health care and the response to it.
With violence escalating to record highs last month and more concerns about the viability of a Hamid Karzai government, one aide to a liberal Democrat said there’s “absolutely growing fear that this has all the earmarks of a real quagmire.—
Many liberals are holding their breath until details of the military report are released, the aide said. They are waiting “out of loyalty— to Obama because “while there may be a few chowderheads, they’re not going to do anything that would undermine this Democratic president.—
Still, the aide added, “If they don’t hear something that eases their angst, I think they’re prepared to go in another direction.—
Sen. Russ Feingold (Wis.), one of Obama’s most vocal Democratic critics, wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal last month calling for a flexible timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops — a proposal that frustrated lawmakers could end up rallying around in the coming months.