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Afghan Election Further Complicates Efforts to Shape Military Strategy

As the White House works to revamp U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., assess the call for more troops, the role of the Afghan election and a shift in U.S. public opinion on the war.

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    Against that backdrop, President Obama held a strategy session this afternoon with Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton, Defense Secretary Gates, and General Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command.

    And we have our own session now with Senators Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, a Republican on that committee.

    Senator Levin, it's been reported that General McChrystal is telling the president that he needs more forces or the conflict, quote, "will likely result in failure." What would you tell the president?

  • SEN. CARL LEVIN, D-Mich.:

    That it's important that we succeed. I think most of us believe it is important, but that we should focus first on the strategy.

    What General McChrystal said repeatedly in that report is, don't just focus on forces. First, decide on strategy. He's repeatedly made that point, although it doesn't seem to come through in the media very well. Don't just concentrate on how many more troops you might need. Focus on what is the correct strategy for success.

    And I believe that the resources that are most needed there will be major increases in the size of the Afghan army earlier, an equipment surge for the Afghan army. We ought to be having a plan, which we yet don't have, to transfer significant equipment from Iraq to the Afghan army to help them succeed. We ought to help them with logistics.

    We also ought to help or devise a plan with the Afghans to reintegrate some of those lower-level Taliban folks, just the way the Iraqi Sunnis were reintegrated into that effort so that they became basically on our side instead of on the insurgent's side.

    Now, all that needs to be done. I believe it would show a real commitment to succeed in Afghanistan. But I would not at this time commit to additional combat forces, because there's a huge downside there, which is the increased combat footprint would play into the hands of the Taliban that would love to make it appear as though we are the ones who are taking over Afghanistan, that we want to dominate Afghanistan, instead of what we should be doing, which is to help the Afghan army particularly, which is a well-respected institution, get much stronger, much faster.

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