Sen. Jack Reed: ‘Emerging Consensus’ to Deploy More Training Troops in Afghanistan

By Britt

Oct 27, 2009 2:28pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: With President Obama mulling a new strategy — and new force levels — in Afghanistan, a key Senate Democrat said today that he expects the administration to send additional forces to help train Afghan troops, separate from any decision the president makes on combat troops. “There’s an emerging consensus that additional trainers have to be deployed, because the key in the long term to avoid the repetition of this cycle is an Afghani security force that is capable and can provide basic stability,” Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said on ABCNews.com’s “Top Line” today.
“So that is something I think everyone can see to be increased. The real issue is brigade combat teams, the combat forces. My sense is that — as has been reported — the president is looking at several options, including an increase — I don’t know what the number is — but including an increase to those forces.” The comments by Reed, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a former Army ranger, suggest that President Obama will be sending more troops to Afghanistan even if he rejects Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s recommendation for additional combat forces. Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., has endorsed the concept of sending more training troops instead of boosting the number of US combat troops.
But any move to increase US troop levels in Afghanistan is likely to provoke strong opposition from some Democrats in Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she doesn’t detect “a great deal of support for sending more troops to Afghanistan” in Congress. Reed also said that Matthew Hoh’s resignation in protest over Afghanistan policy got his attention.  Hoh last month left his post as the senior US civilian in Zabul province, writing that he had “lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan.” 
“I think it underscores the need for evaluation of what’s been done there unfortunately,” Reed said. “And I’ve been over to the country on a number of occasions. You know, four or five years ago it was a much different place in terms of security, in terms of potential, in terms of what we could have done. But now, I think through the wrong-headed approach to Iraq by the Bush administration, we’re now in a situation in Afghanistan that’s much more complicated. The Taliban has re-formed. There is growing frustration by the people, not only with their government, but also with the fact that we haven’t produced the immediate benefits that they assume.” “So I think it just reflects a great deal of frustration, but also underscores the need to step back and analyze our policy and our strategy.”    On health care, Reed applauded the decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to include a public option in the health care bill that will come to the Senate floor — even if that means not a single Republican will support the measure. “I think the important issue is to try and do it right,” Reed said. “If we can get a bill through simply for the sake of being bipartisan, that doesn’t work. That’s not going to help the country — nor, particularly, our caucus. I think we have to do it right. I think the public option is a right thing to do.” Though the provision Reid is backing in the Senate bill isn’t the “robust” public option many liberals are calling for, Reed said he thinks the plan — which would give states the opportunity to “opt out” of a public option — would do enough. “I think it does enough,” Reed said. “I think with a public option, you will have an opportunity for people to go and to find health care and to do it in a way in which they will not be sort of unfairly dealt with.” Click HERE to see the full interview with Sen. Jack Reed. We also checked in with Republican strategist Kevin Madden, on the conservatives’ split in the race in an upstate New York House district, plus the latest on health care reform. Click HERE to see that portion of today’s program.

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