Barack Obama is facing open revolt by senior Democrats for his plans to send extra combat troops to Afghanistan
By Leonard Doyle in Washington
Published: 7:00AM BST 11 Sep 2009
Widespread electoral fraud in the presidential election in Afghanistan has added to unease at Mr Obama’s plans to escalate the war.
Mr Obama, who is struggling with a busy domestic agenda, notably healthcare reform, is now in danger of alienating his own party at an early stage in his presidency.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a news conference on Thursday that Congress was growing nervous about sending a large force of fresh combat troops to the country.
“I don’t think there’s a great deal of support for sending more troops to Afghanistan, in the country or in the Congress,” said Mrs Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives who is known as a close ally of President Obama.
Another senior Democratic figure Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the important Armed Services Committee is due to give a speech today in which he declares that the US should build up Afghan security forces before sending in extra American combat troops.
To underscore his concerns about the war, Mr Levin briefed Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, Robert Gates, the defence secretary, and Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral, in advance yesterday.
General Stanley McChrystal, the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan is expected to make a formal assessment of the progress in the war within a few days. He is widely expected to call for up to 20,000 extra combat troops for his mission, but the White House has also put pressure on him to reduce the numbers of troops he calls for.
The US is already in the process of doubling its troop presence in Afghanistan to 68,000 by the end of this year. Other nations, mainly NATO allies, have another 38,000 troops in the country.
Mr Obama has also promised explain his Afghan strategy before 24 September.
Until recently he was expected to order a dramatic expansion in the size of the US military force in Afghanistan, but public opinion suddenly turned against the war as casualties have risen.
Many Democrats also expecting difficult battles ahead in next years midterm elections. With opposition to the Afghan war growing, any increase in troop number will be difficult for congressional Democrats to endorse.
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