“My view is that the mission has to be very clear,” Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
“I believe it is not now,” Feinstein also said, “I don’t believe we can build a democratic state in Afghanistan. I believe it will remain a tribal entity.”
The California Democrat also said the White House should have a clear sense of how much longer troops would be in the country.
“I believe the mission should be time-limited, that there should be no, ‘Well, we’ll let you know in a year-and-a-half depending on how we do.’ I think the Congress is entitled to know, after Iraq, exactly how long are we going to be in Afghanistan.”
The mission for U.S. troops entails, in Feinstein’s view, clearing the Taliban and al Qaeda out of the country and training Afghan military and police forces.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, largely agreed with Feinstein. In addition to waiting for the release of a report about likely increases in troop levels from the top U.S. military commander on the ground, Shaheen said Congress should also wait on information relating to the benchmarks it has “mandated” from the White House for determining success of the mission in Afghanistan.
Compared to the two Democrats, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins sounded a more pessimistic tone.
“I just don’t know if more troops is the answer,” Collins told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, “We clearly need more American civilians to help build up institutions. We need to grow the size of the Afghan army but we’re dealing with widespread corruption, a very difficult terrain, and I’m just wondering where this ends and how we’ll know when we’ve succeeded.”
Leading congressional Democrats have recently been telegraphing their lack of support for sending more troops to Afghanistan. Sen. Carl Levin, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Friday that the U.S. should focus on building up Afghan security forces before considering sending in more American troops. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she didn’t think there was much support – either in the country or Congress – for sending additional troops.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military commander in the country, has delivered a report to the White House that is widely believed to recommend some increase in troop levels – the exact number of troops will not be known until details about the report are released.
Since taking office, President Obama has ordered an increase of roughly 21,000 more troops for Afghanistan and the Pentagon said Friday that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to announce the addition of close to 3,000 more troops specifically designed to combat the growing problem of roadside bombs in the country.
Without the additional infusions expected by Gates or anticipated in the McChrystal report, current plans call for approximately 68,000 American troops in Afghanistan