- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 29, 2009

Democratic support of President Obama’s long-term plan for Afghanistan will hinge on the planned handover of power to Afghan security forces, the Senate’s top Democrat on military issues said Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican pulled in the opposite direction Sunday, saying that his party opposes any withdrawal plans or timetables and that such proposals undercut U.S. allies and embolden enemies.

The political gauntlet for the president, inside his own party and outside it, has been laid out as he prepares to announce his long-term plan for Afghanistan in a prime-time address Tuesday.

“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 — and I believe that will be the principal mission stated — that would be one important thing to happen for Democratic support,” Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat and Armed Services Committee chairman, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Some anti-war Democrats in Congress have stuck by their calls for a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, while other more-conservative members within the party have said the president needs to honor Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for 40,000 more soldiers.

Mr. Obama is expected to ask for between 30,000 and 35,000 more troops to bolster international forces in Afghanistan. He is also likely to outline the terms for an exit of U.S. forces from the now 8-year-old war.

The Senate’s second-ranking Republican, however, said that any talk of an “exit strategy” for U.S. forces will only empower enemies and that the troops should be deployed immediately.

“Talk of an exit strategy is exactly the wrong way to go,” Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I certainly hope the president doesn’t do that, because all that does is signal to the enemies and also to our allies, to the folks in Pakistan as well as the Afghanis, that we’re not there to stay until the mission is accomplished.”

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