- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Republican lawmakers just back from Afghanistan say the Obama administration’s approach to the war has befuddled U.S. troops, leaving them “dangerously” preoccupied with worrying about captured enemy fighters’ rights.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said that the confusion was evident in his conversations with U.S. troops and that it runs so deep there are two different standards of detention, depending on whether the troops are under NATO command or not.

“We see this preoccupation with prisoners’ rights, both on the foreign battlefield and here at home — it seems to be consuming the administration in the war on terror,” Mr. McConnell said.

Fellow senators who joined Mr. McConnell on the short, official trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan said morale among U.S. troops is very high and there are signs of great progress in Afghanistan.

They also praised Afghanistan’s troops for taking the lead in fighting in some parts of the country.

But the senators also said that when asked, military leaders said President Obama’s specified troop withdrawal timetable is a problem.

Sen. Roger Wicker, Mississippi Republican, said the Taliban is using next year’s announced beginning of a withdrawal as “a propaganda tool” to try to pressure wavering Afghans to rally against U.S. efforts.

Mr. Obama late last year announced a surge of U.S. troops to Afghanistan but said the first troops would begin to come home by July 2011.

How to treat detainees captured in Afghanistan and Iraq has been a flash-point issue for years.

Last year, the Obama administration confirmed reports that FBI agents conducting interrogations were reading Miranda rights to some fighters captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan. The administration said that sometimes happened under the Bush administration as well.

Mr. McConnell said the confusion among troops about detainee policy runs to the very top of the military hierarchy.

He said at one point he asked a general about the policies and the general “didn’t want to answer the question without turning to his lawyer, who was also in the room.”

The Senate minority leader said it’s part of the same mentality that led to the administration’s putting the suspect in the attempted Christmas Day airplane bombing into criminal court proceedings.