WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair-woman Dianne Feinstein broke ranks with many fellow Democrats yesterday by backing a request by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan for more U.S. troops.
Feinstein said the U.S. “mission is in serious jeopardy” and warned that failure to send in additional forces could endanger many of the 65,000 U.S. troops now there.
Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Feinstein voiced the sentiment of Republicans in Congress who have urged President Barack Obama to implement U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal’s call for up to 40,000 more troops.
“I don’t know how you put somebody in … as crackerjack as General McChrystal, who gives the president very solid recommendations, and not take those recommendations,” said Feinstein, who as intelligence committee chairwoman has access to inside information about the war.
“If you don’t want to take the recommendations, then you put your people in such jeopardy,” Feinstein said, citing a recent attack against a U.S. military outpost near Pakistan in which eight American soldiers were killed.
“We didn’t have the ability to defend them, and now the base is closing, and effectively we’re retreating away from it,” said Feinstein.
She noted Obama has ruled out any immediate withdrawal from the war, begun by his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, in response to the Sept. 11 attacks against the U.S.
Obama is facing calls to escalate the war amid polls that show mounting opposition by the U.S. public and pleas by fellow Democrat in Congress that he carefully consider his options.
“I’m saying, at this time, don’t send more (U.S.) combat troops, but I say focus on the Afghan forces,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin.
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Levin said: “there’s a lot of ways to show resolve other than more and more combat forces.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, also appearing on “Meet the Press,” said: “I’m with General McChrystal … He says that the force structure we have today … (is) not sufficient to turn around the momentum that the Taliban have gained.”
Graham said Obama will be judged by the decision he makes.
“If he does a half measure, putting just a few troops in that won’t turn around the momentum of the battle, that will be weakness,” Graham said.
The senator said Obama should send in more troops, obtain a greater commitment from NATO and increase pressure on the Taliban.
“That will be strength,” Graham said.