WASHINGTON - Congressional skepticism over the Obama administration's plans for Afghanistan mounted Sunday as three senators questioned whether more troops should head there and one lawmaker called for a withdrawal time line.
Democrats Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Diane Feinstein of California, along with Republican Susan Collins of Maine, speaking on CNN's State of the Union program, said they shared colleagues' concerns about boosting troop levels before substantial bolstering of the Afghan military and police.
"I just don't know that more troops is the answer. ... We're dealing with widespread corruption, a very difficult terrain, and I'm just wondering where this ends and how we'll know if this succeeded," said Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., has urged the White House to avoid escalating the war and speed up training for Afghan security forces instead of sending more U.S. troops into combat.
Shaheen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said she understood Levin's concerns but stressed that she wanted more information from the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who recently submitted a broad review of Afghan strategy to President Barack Obama.
Feinstein, who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she supported training the Afghan security forces but did not believe U.S. goals in Afghanistan had been outlined clearly.
GERMAN SHIFT: Germany Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier advocates preparing the ground over the next four years for a withdrawal from Afghanistan, with police and army training being stepped up, according to a report Sunday.
The report in the weekly Der Spiegel came two weeks before German elections in which Steinmeier is challenging Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Germany's unpopular mission in Afghanistan, where it has more than 4,200 troops, has been put in the spotlight by a German-ordered Sept. 4 airstrike near Kunduz in which civilians appear to have died.
Merkel, as well as French and British leaders, have called for a new international conference on Afghanistan.
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Insurgent ambush kills 3 U.S. troops
About 50 Taliban militants died in a battle in western Afghanistan after an insurgent ambush killed three U.S. and seven Afghan troops, Afghan army spokesman Maj. Abdul Basir Ghori said Sunday.
The fighting took place in a region controlled by militants that has been the site of huge battles in the past, some that have caused high numbers of civilian casualties. In Saturday's clash, a militant-fired rocket struck a home and killed a woman and a teenage girl.