Leading Republicans urged President Obama to make a swift decision in favor of more U.S. troops for the war in Afghanistan after talks between the president and congressional leaders Tuesday.
Obama faces an expected request for thousands of more U.S. troops from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan. He gathered leading members of Congress from both parties at the White House on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the future of the war, which turns 8 years old Wednesday. “Obviously, there are many of us who feel that delay does signal uncertainty to the region,” Rep. Eric Cantor, the House minority whip, told CNN’s “The Situation Room.” Cantor, of Virginia, said Republicans would support Obama if he agrees to send more troops into the conflict. But “If the president chooses to go a different route, you know, it is obviously going to be tough for us,” he said. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said after the meeting that “everyone — Democrats and Republicans — said, whatever decision you make, we’ll support it, basically.” But he expressed skepticism about Republican pledges of support, saying, “It will be interesting to see if their actions follow their words.” Watch more on the problems Obama faces on Afghanistan U.S. forces launched the invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, in response to the al Qaeda terrorist network’s attacks on New York and Washington on September 11. Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden escaped the U.S. onslaught and remains a fugitive. Now the U.S.-led coalition is battling a resurgence of the Taliban, the Islamic militia that allowed al Qaeda to operate from its territory before the attacks and is trying to return to power. Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged Monday that Taliban fighters “have the momentum right now,” blaming a shortage of U.S. and allied troops over the past seven years for the development.
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The war has claimed the lives of 865 Americans and 570 allied troops, and U.S. public support for the conflict has slipped sharply in the past two years. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said after the White House talks that Obama has “a difficult decision” before him but offered no overt pledge of support for more troops. “Whether we agree with it or vote for it remains to be seen when we see what the president puts forth,” she said. But Sen. John McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, “It’s pretty clear that time is not on our side.” “We need to act with deliberate haste,” said McCain, Obama’s GOP opponent in last year’s presidential election.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs has said Obama would consult with Congress on his eventual decision. “The president has [heard] and wants to hear from all of those that are involved in decisions about protecting our homeland, keeping our country safe, as well as the deployment of our men and women in uniform,” Gibbs said. “Obviously, Congress plays an important and significant role in that, and this is part of talking to them about this process.”