Vt. delegation questions more troops for Afghanistan

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(Host) Members of Vermont’s congressional delegation are skeptical about sending thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan.

They question whether an additional deployment is the best way to battle terrorism and weaken Al Quaeda.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Congressman Peter Welch has joined with 56 other members of the U.S. House in questioning the wisdom of sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.  In a letter to the president, the group wrote, "We urge you to reject any recommendation to increase the number of combat troops there."

Welch says he backed the decision to send troops to Afghanistan in the weeks following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. But he now believes that U.S. policy has morphed into a much larger mission that he doesn’t support.

(Welch) "We went to Afghanistan for the right reason. It was to drive out Al Qaeda that was being housed there. And now we’ve changed that mission to nation building. And it’s an illegitimate government. And can our military make that a legitimate government? I have my severe doubts."

(Kinzel) As an alternative policy, Welch says the United States should concentrate on weakening Al Qaeda forces in those countries where they’ve gained a foothold.

(Welch) "Obviously that takes, one, a ready military and emphasis on intelligence, special forces and the predator drones. Two, it takes, obviously, getting as much cooperation from some of these host countries if possible."

(Kinzel) Senator Bernie Sanders notes that the United States has been fighting in Afghanistan for the past eight years. 

He says questions about voter fraud in the recent presidential election, should be a wake-up call to rethink U.S. policies.

(Sanders) "How many more years should we stay there? What is the best way to support the legitimate and honest forces in Afghanistan in taking on the Taliban? How do you relate to Pakistan and making sure we deal with Al Qaeda, which is now congregating, not in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan?" 

(Kinzel) Speaking recently on VPR’s Vermont Edition, Senator Patrick Leahy said the time has come for a top to bottom review of U.S. goals and policies in Afghanistan.

(Leahy) "Were we right to go in to get Osama bin laden? Yes. Did this country make a huge mistake a few years ago taking its eye off the ball? Yes. Now the question is how do we protect America‘s interests in that part of the world if we’re not going to have the support of the government that’s there."

(Kinzel) A formal request to send more troops is expected by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, 1,500 members of the Vermont National Guard are scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan in the beginning of next year.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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