- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2003

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee is worried that the Bush administration is not devoting enough funds to the rebuilding of Afghanistan, while Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. said the Bush administration has "basically turned it over to the warlords."

Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, returned from a weeklong trip to the Middle East on Saturday concerned that American troops are too "far flung and stretched out" around the world. He also questioned the monetary commitment to complete the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

"Frankly, I have some questions about it in terms of our budget commitment," Mr. Levin said Monday. "There seemed to be a failure to put adequate resources into that reconstruction effort in the budget submission. I hope our budget, either as it comes into the Congress, or as it leaves the Congress, displays the kind of commitment to staying the course that is absolutely essential if we're not going to see a repeat of Afghanistan in Afghanistan and in other places."

Mr. Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Delaware Democrat, said yesterday the Bush administration has "already given up the ghost on Afghanistan" in funding and military commitments.

"They've basically turned it over to the warlords," Mr. Biden said, adding that he proposed giving the Bush administration $100 million in additional funds to help rebuild postwar Afghanistan.

"They've used none of it," he said. "I don't think they have any intention of using it."

Mr. Biden also said the Bush administration hasn't given Congress or the public an idea of how much defeating and patrolling Iraq would cost, forcing him and others to rely on independent think-tank estimates that range from $19 billion to $50 billion a year.

"That's a whole lot of money," Mr. Biden said. "And the point is that no foreign policy is going to be sustained without the informed consent of the American people. The American people think Johnny and Jane are going to come marching home again. They don't have any idea that the estimates are up to 75,000 American forces on the ground [in Iraq] for a minimum of two years."

A Republican aide on the House Budget Committee said it was too soon to start criticizing the levels of funding and planning for military operations.

"It's ironic that the same Democrats who said you haven't budgeted for a war don't want the war in the first place," said a Republican staffer on the House Budget Committee. "The current budget process has only just begun. One week we're not funding Afghanistan enough. The next week it's some domestic program. And out of the other side of their mouths, they complain about deficits."

At a hearing yesterday of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mr. Levin asked Gen. Eric Shinseki, chief of staff of the Army, how many troops it would take to secure Iraq after a U.S. victory.

"Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably a figure that would be required," Gen. Shinseki said. "We're talking about a post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems."

A Democratic aide said Mr. Levin is "just trying to get his arms around what it's going to require" to wage war in Iraq and then secure peace.

"We are going to get a [classified] briefing [today] for planning for a postwar Iraq, and we'll see what's there," the aide said.

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