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Big war boost clears Congress despite Afghan leak

WASHINGTON — The House on Tuesday sent President Barack Obama a major war-funding increase of $33 billion to pay for his troop surge in Afghanistan, unmoved by the leaking of classified documents that portray a military effort struggling between 2004 and 2009 against a strengthening insurgency.

The House voted 308-114 to approve the spending boost for the additional 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Other nonwar provisions brought the total bill to nearly $59 billion.

From Obama on down, the disclosure of the documents was condemned by administration officials and military leaders on Tuesday, but the material failed to stir new antiwar sentiment. The bad news for the White House: A pervasive weariness with the war was still there — and possibly growing.

Republicans still were strongly behind the boost in war spending, but there was unusually strong opposition from members of Obama's Democratic Party. All but 12 of the "no" votes in the House came from Democrats, including Tampa's Kathy Castor.

At a Senate hearing on prospects for a political settlement of the Afghan conflict, there was scant mention of the tens of thousands of documents posted Sunday on the website WikiLeaks, but there were repeated expressions of frustration over the direction of the fighting.

Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis told senators at a hearing on his nomination to lead the military's Central Command that, whatever other lessons are drawn from the WikiLeaks documents, no one should doubt that the U.S. is committed to staying in Afghanistan until it wins.

"We are on the right track now," Mattis said, while predicting that the U.S. casualty rate would increase in coming months as still more U.S. troops join the fight against the Taliban.

In his first public comments on the weekend leak, Obama said it could "potentially jeopardize individuals or operations" in Afghanistan. But he also said the papers did not reveal any concerns that were not already part of the war debate.

In Baghdad, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters he was "appalled" by the leak, which he said had the potential of putting troops' lives at added risk.

A criminal investigation into the leak is focused on an Army intelligence analyst already charged with disclosing classified information. Bradley E. Manning, a 22-year-old Army private first class who was charged in May with illegally downloading classified material, is a "person of interest," Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon's press secretary, said.

Information from the Tribune Washington Bureau was used in this report.

Also Tuesday

• In a 57-41 vote, Senate Republicans blocked legislation imposing new restrictions on political activity by special interest groups, likely dealing a fatal blow to a drive by the White House and congressional Democrats to rewrite campaign rules in the run-up to the midterm elections.

• Thursday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the release of the man convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, was postponed because British and Scottish officials declined to testify.

• A bill that would protect American authors, journalists and publishers from foreign libel judgments that undermine the U.S. guarantee of free speech passed Congress and was sent it to President Barack Obama.

Fast facts

Also Tuesday

• In a 57-41 vote, Senate Republicans blocked legislation imposing new restrictions on political activity by special interest groups, likely dealing a fatal blow to a drive by the White House and congressional Democrats to rewrite campaign rules in the run-up to the midterm elections.

• Thursday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the release of the man convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, was postponed because British and Scottish officials declined to testify.

• A bill that would protect American authors, journalists and publishers from foreign libel judgments that undermine the U.S. guarantee of free speech passed Congress and was sent to President Barack Obama.

Big war boost clears Congress despite Afghan leak 07/27/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 11:05pm]

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