Obama must sell Afghan surge: US House Speaker

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama will have to sell his escalation of the war in Afghanistan to his divided Democratic allies in the US Congress, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday.
"The president is going to have to make his case," she told reporters, adding she had warned lawmakers wary of the troop surge "to give the President room, to listen to what he has to say" before voting on funding the conflict.

US soldiers in Kabul (AFP/File/Massoud Hossaini)
US soldiers in Kabul (AFP/File/Massoud Hossaini)
Pelosi said many Democrats "eager to have a vote soon on Afghanistan" may get their chance next month, when one lawmaker plans to introduce a resolution aiming to force Obama to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan.
The measure appears unlikely to succeed -- virtually all 177 Republicans support Obama's escalation and enough of the 258 Democrats back the president to defeat it -- but the fight could be a barometer of congressional support.
And the White House is expected to seek an emergency spending bill to pay for Obama's deployment of 30,000 more US troops to fight the Taliban, at an estimated cost of about 30 billion dollars for the first year.
The speaker said she would not pressure Democrats to vote for the supplemental funding measure because "war votes are votes of conscience."
Obama won the White House in November 2008 after a campaign in which he denounced the US-led invasion of Iraq and charged predecessor George W. Bush of neglecting Afghanistan, where the Taliban have made a comeback after being driven from power in late 2001.
But the US public is deeply divided over the war, with recent opinion polls finding some 40 percent oppose Obama's escalation, which has divided congressional Democrats.
Pelosi pleaded for patience with the president's approach, saying she told lawmakers to "understand that the President has been dealt a very bad hand, because there was no plan in Afghanistan for years."

Thursday, December 17th 2009

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