Too early to send more US troops, says Senator Kerry

US Senator John Kerry said in an interview with CNN that it would be "entirely irresponsible" to send more troops to Afghanistan until the country's lengthy election process delivers a clear verdict and the US knows who it will be working with.


AFP - US Senator John Kerry said, in an interview to be aired Sunday, it was "irresponsible" to send more US troops to Afghanistan at this time, amid a deepening election crisis that has placed the Kabul government's legitimacy at stake.

The United States should not proceed with a new Afghanistan strategy committing a potentially major increase in US resources, including tens of thousands more troops, without first securing a clear partner in Kabul, Kerry told CNN.

"It would be entirely irresponsible for the president of the United States to commit more troops to this country, when we don't even have an election finished and know who the president is and what kind of government we're working in, with," said Kerry, chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"When our own commanding general tells us that a critical component of achieving our mission here is, in fact, good governance, and we're living with a government that we know has to change and provide it, how could the president responsibly say, 'Oh, they asked for more, sure -- here they are?'"

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government has been plagued by uncertainty and a legitimacy crisis after allegations of widespread fraud in the August elections whose preliminary results put him on top, and ongoing charges of corruption.

Kerry, a Democrat who lost his 2004 bid for the White House to former Republican president George W. Bush, was in Afghanistan ahead of an anticipated announcement on whether a run-off election would be held between Karzai and his main challenger, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah.

Obama is nearing a decision on the way forward in Afghanistan, after weeks of deliberations with his top advisers, but also as public support wanes for the conflict.

The US contingent, set to reach 68,000 troops by the end of the year, is experiencing heavy casualties as it combats a Taliban that has regrouped and gained momentum.

Among those options being considered are to follow a grim assessment by the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, and adopt a counter-insurgency strategy that requires at least 40,000 additional troops.

Vice President Joe Biden meanwhile is pushing for a more narrow, counter-terrorism approach focused on targeting Al-Qaeda militants in Afghanistan and primarily in Pakistan using unmanned drone aircraft and Special Operations Forces.

Top Democrats in the US Congress, meanwhile, are pushing for a middle path that might see thousands of troops deployed solely to train the Afghan security forces.

Kerry stressed, as the White House has, that withdrawing from Afghanistan, which Obama has called a "war of necessity" and not a "war of choice," is out of the question for now.

"Obviously, if you exhibit weakness or indecision, or if the United States were to suddenly pull out of here, it would be disastrous in terms of the message that it sends. Nobody is talking about that. That's not what's on the table here," he said.

"What we're trying to figure out so that we don't repeat mistakes of the past, is not just... endlessly asking our military to deploy and go out and fight if we aren't certain that we're giving them the mission that, in fact, is achievable and that the American people will in fact stay committed to it."

Even if Obama approves McChrystal's favored option, most of the reinforcements would not arrive in Afghanistan until next year, the senior lawmaker noted.

Speaking to CBS television, Kerry said he did not see how Obama "can make a decision about the committing of our additional forces, or even the further fulfillment of our mission that's here today, without an adequate government in place or knowledge about what that government's going to be."

He said it was time for Karzai to "step up" and explain how they could be a viable partner in the US and NATO-led mission to rout out Taliban militants and build a stable Afghanistan eight years into the war.

Excerpts of the interviews were provided by the networks and were to be aired in full on Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" and CBS's "Face the Nation."

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