Rep. David Obey, a Democrat from Wisconsin, is expressing serious reservations about the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan - just days before President Obama is expected to announce a substantial increase in U.S. troops in the country.
“The problem is that you can have the best policy in the world, but if you don't have the tools to implement it, it isn't worth a beanbag,” Obey said on CNN’s State of the Union, “And I don't think we have the tools in the Pakistani government and I don't think we have the tools in the Afghan government. And until we do, I think much of what we do is a fool's errand.”
Although Obey praised the process the president has used to revamp military strategy in Afghanistan, the Wisconsin Democrat who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said his differing opinion of the war is caused by consideration of the country’s long term fiscal resources and needs.
A feisty Sunday back and forth over what should come next in Afghanistan offered the White House a clear preview of the battle lines as President Obama prepared to ask Congress – and the American people – to support a significant escalation of the U.S. military presence there.
Democrats said one critical test was showing how more troops now would ultimately mean a credible plan to bring most troops home. Or, as Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island put it: “He has to make a speech that shows all of our efforts are pointed to a reduced presence in Afghanistan.”
But Republicans ready to support sending upwards of 30,000 more troops warned Mr. Obama would look weak if he emphasized an exit strategy over defeating the Al Qaeda and Taliban enemy. Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona sounded that note: “All this talk about an exit strategy is really dangerous. It tells the Taliban to lay low until we leave.”
It was at times eerie as some of the debate tracked previous political arguments about the Iraq surge, or whether a firm timetable was necessary to make clear when the war would end.
Paying for the escalation was another flashpoint, with one Republican going as far as saying the White House should set the health care debate aside until next year, and focus in the meantime on paying for overseas military deployments and creating jobs here at home.
No thanks, was the Democratic response.
A scene setter there, now let’s get to the Sound of Sunday.
(CNN) - Iran's Cabinet has authorized the construction of another 10 uranium enrichment plants, its state news agency announced Sunday, further defying international calls to halt its production of nuclear fuel.
The Iranian Cabinet approved existing plans for five more facilities similar to its current plant at Natanz and ordered planning for five more to begin, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported. The dispatch quoted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying that the new plants will be used to produce fuel for civilian nuclear power stations.
The move comes two days after the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, passed a resolution demanding that Iran stop construction on a previously secret nuclear facility at Qom. The agency also repeated calls for Iran to stop its uranium enrichment program.
The IAEA said it would not comment on Sunday's announcement. But in Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called the announcement "another example of Iran choosing to isolate itself."
"The international community has made clear that Iran has rights, but with those rights come responsibilities," Gibbs said in a written statement. "As the overwhelming IAEA board of governors vote made clear, time is running out for Iran to address the international community's growing concerns about its nuclear program."
Washington (CNN) – Just days before President Obama is expected to announce his plan to send tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, the Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday that the Afghan government currently is not a reliable partner in the American effort to build up Afghan security forces.
After Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar mentioned an ambitious plan to train 134,000 Afghan security forces in a year, which is expected to be part of President Obama’s larger Afghan strategy rolled out to the nation Tuesday evening, CNN Chief National Correspondent John King asked Lugar whether the Afghan government is up to the task of meeting the demands the Obama administration is expected to place on Kabul.
“Do you trust the other side of the equation?,” King asked Lugar on State of the Union. Do we have a reliable partner in the Afghan government?’
“For the moment, we don't have a reliable partner,” Lugar bluntly replied. “If the training occurs, will the government really take hold? We don't know, frankly,” Lugar also said Sunday.
Democratic Sen. Jack Reed, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Sunday that concerns about the administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai should not impede President Obama’s reported plan to send roughly 30,000 additional U.S. troops to the war torn country.
Washington (CNN) – The Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday that the Senate should set aside the impending debate on the health care reform bill and, instead, use the remainder of the year to focus on the appropriate strategy for the Afghanistan war, funding the war, and passing the appropriations bill necessary to keep the federal government running.
“I would just make this suggestion,” Republican Sen. Richard Lugar said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, “that in the three weeks of debate we still have ahead of us, we really ought to concentrate in the Congress on the war, on the overall strategy of our country and the cost of it. And we ought to be on the budget - passing appropriations bills in a proper way. . . . We may wish to discuss higher taxes to pay for [the war]. But we're not going to do that debating health care in the Senate for three weeks through all sorts of strategies and so forth.”
“The war is terribly important,” Lugar continued, “Jobs and our economy are terribly important. So this may be an audacious suggestion, but I would suggest we put aside the health care debate until next year, the same way we put cap and trade and climate change [aside] and talk now about the essentials: the war and money.”
Democratic Sen. Jack Reed, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, disagreed with Lugar.
“Absolutely not,” Reed replied when asked by CNN Chief National Correspondent John King whether the Senate put off debate on the health care reform bill until 2010.
Washington (CNN) - With Republican opposition unanimous so far, the Senate debate starting Monday on a comprehensive health care bill will focus on bridging differences among the majority Democrats.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada managed to hold together his 60-seat Democratic caucus to overcome a Republican filibuster and launch debate on the $849 billion Democratic proposal that would expand health coverage to 31 million more Americans. Reid also will need 60 votes to eventually close the debate, expected to last several weeks, and his ability to secure that support remains uncertain.
"The Democratic base expects, as we say, change you can believe in," former Vermont governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean told "FOX News Sunday." "Harry Reid has got a real problem on his hands, and he's got to get these folks to pass a decent bill."
Sens. Richard Lugar and Jack Reed discussed Afghanistan on Sunday's State of the Union. (Photo Credit: CNN)