Obama Assures Exit Strategy for Afghanistan
President Barack Obama on Sunday said his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan does not amount to an open-ended commitment to military involvement in the country, and that he needs Congress’ help to build the necessary social infrastructure there.After weeks of news about the nation’s faltering economy, foreign policy dominated Obama’s interview on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.— The president announced on Friday that he would send additional troops to Afghanistan.Obama said his military strategy is a continuation of the war the United States originally launched after 9/11, but “it’s not going to be an open-ended commitment of infinite resources.— The president said that critical pieces of his strategy are training the Afghan national army to take the lead in military operations and rebuilding social institutions and infrastructure both in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.“We’ve got to increase foreign aid in Afghanistan, and we’ve got to increase foreign aid in Pakistan,— Obama said, adding: “I’m going to be really pushing Congress, because sometimes foreign aid is a juicy target, especially during tough times and I’m going to tell them that this is central to our strategy, and it can save lives and troops.—So far, Congress has responded favorably to Obama’s decision to send an additional 4,000 troops to the region, a surge that comes on top of the 17,000 in additional military forces he authorized last month. Even liberal lawmakers have largely withheld criticism over the proposal. When the discussion pivoted to the domestic front, Obama said he would also be pushing Congress to indefinitely extend the middle-class tax cuts that were included in last month’s $787 billion stimulus package. The president acknowledged, however, the challenge of figuring out how to pay for it. “I strongly believe that we should continue those tax cuts. We should make them permanent,— Obama said. “I’m going to be pushing as hard as I can to get it done in this budget. … If it is not done in this budget, I am going to keep on pushing for it next year and the year afterwards.—Both Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner — who made appearances on two other talk shows on Sunday — suggested that Congress should be careful when responding to the public outrage over $165 million in bonuses paid to American International Group executives, particularly if it leads to poorly crafted legislation or hampers the nation’s economic recovery. “I think the anger was justified, and had we not seen the healthy expressions of anger we would not have gotten $50 million of those bonuses back,— Obama said, referring to the bonus money some AIG past and present employees returned voluntarily.But the president added that the larger goal is to work with financial institutions to restore the flow of credit that is so critical to the U.S. economy, saying: “What I don’t want is that larger project to be threatened by short-term gratifications of our legitimate frustrations with some of the behavior we have seen on Wall Street.—Speaking on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,— Geithner said that even in hindsight, he would not have tried to cancel the AIG bonuses because “we are a nation of laws,— and the payments were legitimately written into contracts.But he added that part of the problem is that the government lacks the necessary legal authority to oversee non-bank financial institutions. That’s why Geithner said the administration is asking Congress for new power to oversee hedge funds and other financial firms, and to manage these institutions when they run into trouble. Geithner said he is seeking “stronger resolution authority, so the government can come in early before the damage is done.— In the current economic crisis, “the government had no ability to contain the fire,— he said.