- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More American troops are likely to be needed to win the war in Afghanistan, the top U.S. military officer told skeptical Democrats on Tuesday, citing a need to demonstrate U.S. resolve in an increasingly unpopular war.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that a proper effort to counter the Taliban insurgency “probably means more forces.”

Adm. Mullen spoke during a hearing on his nomination for a second term as the president’s senior military adviser. The chairman of the Senate panel, Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, used the session to underscore his opposition to additional forces, at least until the United States takes bolder action to expand Afghanistan’s own military.

“Providing the resources needed for the Afghan army and Afghan police to become self-sufficient would demonstrate our commitment to the success of a mission that is in our national security interest, while avoiding the risks associated with a further increase in U.S. ground combat troops,” Mr. Levin said.

Mr. Levin is one of several leading Democrats who have expressed skepticism in recent days about adding more American troops.

Adm. Mullen told the senators that “it’s very clear to me that we will need more resources” to carry out the revamped counterinsurgency strategy President Obama laid out earlier this year.

Adm. Mullen said he did not know how many more troops would be requested by the commanding general in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal.

At the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters that the administration would be deliberating the next steps in Afghanistan “for some time,” suggesting no decision was imminent.

Mr. Levin’s Republican counterpart, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, said committing too few forces to the war would invite a rerun of mistakes the U.S. made in Iraq. “I’ve seen that movie before,” said Mr. McCain, the committee’s ranking Republican.

Adm. Mullen said he has made no recommendations to the White House about how many more troops might be needed. He said Gen. McChrystal will submit his request very soon.

The United States has about 65,000 troops in Afghanistan, with a few thousand additional trainers expected by the end of the year.

The escalation in attacks by Taliban insurgents in recent weeks has increased the pressure on the U.S. and NATO forces. It also has complicated the ballot counting from the Aug. 20 presidential elections.

Initial results showed incumbent President Hamid Karzai with a 54 percent lead, enough to avoid a runoff vote. But Mr. Karzai’s main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, has claimed widespread fraud and demanded recounts in several places.

On Tuesday, the U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission ordered the Afghan election commission to recount ballots from about 10 percent of polling sites, increasing the likelihood of a runoff.

Meanwhile, diplomatic maneuvering to agree on an outcome that would be credible to Afghans and the outside world turned public Tuesday with confirmation that Peter Galbraith, the top American official at the U.N. mission here, left the country after a disagreement with his boss, Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, over the election.

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