US President Barack Obama, met key Congressional leaders from both the Republican and Democratic parties in an apparent bid to seek their support on his strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
After the 90-minute meeting with Obama at the White House, both Republican and Democrat lawmakers acknowledged that it was a tough decision for Obama to make and appreciate the US President for listening to their views.
During the meeting, Obama said the war would not be reduced to counter-terrorism campaign, but did not give any indication about his thoughts on the request by the commanders on the ground that they need an additional 40,000 troops in Afghanistan.
However, as the Republican and Democrats leaders emerged from the meeting and briefed the press thereafter, it appeared that there was no change in their respective party’s stand on the new policy.
Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, said there was unanimity among the Congressional leaders that they would support the decision taken by Obama on this issue.
“The one thing that I think was interesting is that everyone, Democrats and Republicans, said, whatever decision you make, we’ll support it, basically,” Mr. Reid told reporters after the meeting held at White House.
At the same time, Ms. Pelosi noted that though there was some agreement, there was some diversity of opinions as well among the law makers.
“It wasn’t a question of difference of opinion, it was question of having different evaluations of the strength of the different tools at our disposal as the President goes forward, and again, as Congress plays its rightful role in all of this,” she said.
“The question that the Leader put forth at the beginning, and General (Steanley) McChrystal (US and NATO Commander in Afghanistan) said in this report: “Without a strategy, we shouldn’t resource the mission.” So the question is: How do we evaluate the tools at our disposal? Do we have an able partner in President Karzai? Is the government capable of acting in a way that is not fraught with corruption? Those kinds of issues,” Ms. Pelosi said giving a sense of the issues discussed at the meeting.
Noting that Afghanistan-Pakistan border is the “single most active terrorist haven” in the world, Reid said it is vital to the US national security that the new strategy is got right.
At a separate press conference Republican leader, Congressman, John A Boehner, said, “I don’t believe the President needs to make a decision in haste, but we need to get this right and I’m hopeful that the President will make a strong decision that will allow us to win this effort that was started many years ago.”
Republican Senator Mitch McConnell hoped that Obama will follow the advice of the US generals on the ground who, according to him, knows what it would take to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan, prevent the comeback of the Taliban, and obviously prevent a haven for Al Qaida.
“I think the President is directly on target here,” Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said.
“He made it clear that we got to understand what the resources are going to be in the long haul. What kind of commitment we are calling on the American people to make. And that depends on certain assumptions. What is the impact of the troops on Pakistan? What is the impact on the Taliban? What are the possibilities of the Taliban resurging to the degree some people suggest?” Mr. Kerry said.
“We have a government in Pakistan and Afghanistan that is very dysfunctional at best. Some suggest that many level it is corrupt. The key cornerstone of counter-insurgency is governance. If you do not have partners in that effort, how can you achieve development?” Mr. Kerry added.
Senator McCain said, “There’s been this argument that the threat now is not the Al Qaida; it’s because some a lot of the Al Qaida have been eliminated. The fact is we all know that, if the Taliban come back, the Al Qaida will come back. And they will come back to Iraq - I mean, excuse me, Afghanistan. And they will come back in Pakistan, where they already are.”
He said he is convinced that General McChrystal’s analysis is not only correct but should be employed as quickly as possible.
“This is the strategy and the resources that they believe are necessary to succeed. It’s the president’s final decision, but I certainly think that their recommendations should be given great weight, given the success of their leadership in the past,” Mr. McCain said.