WASHINGTON - Key Senate Democrats signaled Friday that any push by President Barack Obama to send more troops to Afghanistan is likely to hit resistance on Capitol Hill, deepening a growing political divide on the war even within his own party.
Speaking after Obama's defense chief suggested a willingness to consider increasing troops in Afghanistan, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Friday that the United States must focus more on building the Afghan security forces. His stance was echoed by Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who is also on the committee and spent two days in Afghanistan this week with Levin.
The senators will return to Washington next week, just as Obama receives a military review of Afghanistan strategy that officials expect will be followed up by a request for at least a modest increase in U.S. troops battling insurgents in the 8-year-old war.
Obama came into office pledging to shift U.S. focus from the war in Iraq to the Afghan fight, which had long been a secondary priority. But as war-weary Americans have watched another 21,000 troops go to Afghanistan, and U.S. casualties rise, support for the war has waned.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday the war is worth fighting and said efforts by Obama should be given a chance to succeed. Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, would not discuss recommendations contained in a new review of Afghanistan sent this week to them by the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.