Obama Still Piecing Together Plan for Afghanistan

Posted September 20, 2009 at 12:02pm

In a media blitz on five Sunday talk shows, President Barack Obama refused to set a timeline for troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, saying he was still formulating the “right strategy.—Obama, in an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,— said he wanted to set “clear benchmarks— for progress in the country, but he declined to submit to calls among Democrats in Congress that he set a firm timeline for withdrawal.“I don’t have a deadline for withdrawal,— Obama said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.— “But I’m not someone who believes in indefinite occupation of countries.—He did not rule out sending more troops to the country, where violence against American soldiers has risen dramatically in recent months.However, he said he would wait to make a decision on troop levels until after his commanders on the ground provide him with a sound strategy for eliminating al-Qaida.But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, on Sunday maintained that additional troops must be sent to the troubled region. “I don’t believe it’s possible to turn around Afghanistan without more American combat power, somewhere near 40,000 troops,— Graham said during an appearance on “Meet the Press.— “I want to help this president do the things we need to do,— Graham added. “We are going to need more resources to do it, and I want to help this president because our national security interests are as ever much at stake as they were during the election.—Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), in a stance that runs counter to Obama’s and Graham’s, has called for a surge of Afghan forces to defeat the Taliban insurgents and al-Qaida, and avoid the need for more U.S. troops.Congress is expected to confront the issue in the coming weeks, when military leaders, led by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, will likely request 40,000 additional U.S. troops.Obama in his Sunday appearances also declined to take a position on whether Congress should cut off federal funds to the nonprofit group ACORN. Both chambers voted last week to cut off funding for the liberal-leaning group, which helps low-income individuals buy homes and has a voter registration program.ACORN, which has long been a liberal bogeyman for conservative talk shows, has come under fire recently after secretly taped videos showed employees in several offices helping conservatives activists — posing as a pimp and prostitute — buy a home to use as a brothel.