- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 9, 2002

The Senate yesterday unanimously approved a resolution supporting U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, ending days of partisan intrigue over the seemingly simple declaration.

"The Senate expresses the gratitude of the Nation to the United States Armed Forces who are participating in Operation Enduring Freedom," states the one-page resolution. "The Senate reaffirms that it stands united with the President in the ongoing effort to defeat terrorism."

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who was denounced last week for criticizing the war's direction, offered the resolution alone on the Senate floor. He said the gesture "reminds our troops that we are thinking of them and praying for them."

"The soldiers who were killed this week and in the last 21 weeks of Operation Enduring Freedom died … doing the work that we sent them out to do," said Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. "It is only fitting, then, that we take a moment here in the Senate to thank them and their families and to reaffirm the commitment that we made. … We will not rest until the perpetrators of September 11 are brought to justice."

The nonbinding "sense of the Senate" resolution took most of the week to complete as Mr. Daschle and other Democratic leaders worked to craft suitable language. The final version differed little from a draft that was circulated Tuesday.

Senators did change an earlier reference "to defeat al Qaeda," instead writing "to defeat terrorism" to reflect the global nature of the U.S. campaign.

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, inserted a paragraph that "the first priority of the Congress is to provide our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines with the necessary resources and tools required for victory."

Democrats added a reference that the Senate "has supported all of the president's requests to meet this deadly new threat to world peace."

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, had said he was involved "a little bit" in rewriting the resolution, but spokesman David Carle yesterday denied that his boss had any involvement.

"We truly are not involved," Mr. Carle said. "[Mr. Leahy] has never raised concerns."

Mr. Daschle's office proposed the resolution Monday after eight U.S. troops were killed in renewed fighting in Afghanistan. Although the crafting of the language took nearly a full week, Mr. Lott said the time needed to complete the resolution was not unusual.

He said a resolution honoring slain journalist Daniel Pearl of the Wall Street Journal took two days to finish.

On the Senate floor yesterday, Mr. Daschle praised the efforts of U.S. forces overseas.

"In more than 20 weeks of operations in Afghanistan, our troops have liberated Afghanistan, decimated the Taliban, disrupted al Qaeda operations and captured hundreds of al Qaeda terrorists," he said. "Their success lulled much of the world into thinking that our work in Afghanistan was done."

"The somber news of earlier this week that eight of America's finest soldiers had been killed in action reminds us that there is much to be done in Afghanistan. Right now, our troops are doing that work. They are engaged in the largest ground offensive of the war, confronting the hardest of the hard core of al Qaeda," he said.

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