- The Washington Times - Monday, October 19, 2009

Democrats from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue said Sunday that sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan would be futile unless the Afghan government gains more legitimacy and support among its people.

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said elections have to be completed, and done so fairly, before the U.S. should consider sending more troops to Afghanistan.

“What we really need in addition is the government that has the capacity to be able to deliver at a local level as well as do some of the rebuilding of both the national army as well as the police,” Mr. Kerry said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Until then, Mr. Kerry said in another talk-show appearance, the U.S. should not commit more troops to Afghanistan.

“It would be entirely irresponsible for the president of the United States to commit more troops to this country, when we don’t even have an election finished and know who the president is and what kind of government we’re working with,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

White House advisers meanwhile said the Obama administration is continuing to review the recommendation from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal to send as many as 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to pursue a counterinsurgency war against the Taliban, as Gen. David H. Petraeus did in the Iraq troop surge of 2007-08. But the recommendation comes as the Democratic political base is increasingly demanding that President Obama bring U.S. troops home.

The problems and delays with a recent Afghan election - election fraud charges have been levied widely against Afghan President Hamid Karzai - have punctuated the administration’s troubles.

“The question does not become how many troops you send, but do you have a credible Afghan partner for this process that can provide the security and the type of services that the Afghan people need?” White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Mr. Emanuel would neither set a timeline for Mr. Obama’s ruling on Gen. McChrystal’s recommendations nor say whether the U.S. president will wait first for a definitive outcome on the Afghan election.

Republican leaders have continued to pressure the administration for an answer, supporting Gen. McChrystal’s recommendations for a troop surge and saying that the decision shouldn’t wait for the outcome of the Afghan elections.

“I think the fundamental issue with that decision … is America’s national security interest. I think we’re going to be dealing with some government in Afghanistan under any circumstance,” said Sen. John Thune, a Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on “Fox News Sunday.”

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, spoke similarly, saying Mr. Obama may be encouraging a perception of U.S. weakness.

“At some point, deliberation begins to look more like indecisiveness, which then becomes a way of emboldening our enemies,” Mr. Cornyn said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Mr. Kerry made the rounds of Sunday talk shows, speaking from Afghanistan after a meeting with Gen. McChrystal.

“The general was asked for additional troops to be able to make all of those components work. But it isn’t going to be just troops that make them work. The Afghans themselves have to deliver. And in whatever they deliver, they will create the atmosphere for the civilian sector to be able to deliver,” Mr. Kerry said. “We still have a lot of questions to answer about our capacity to do both of those parts of the mission.”

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