Pentagon does not account for Billions; Congress sends more Cash

by Robert Burns

The House prepared Tuesday to send President Barack Obama $33 billion to pay for his troop surge in Afghanistan, unmoved by the leaking of tens of thousands of classified military documents that portray a war effort beset by Afghan shortcomings.

War Pigs continue financing Genocide in the Middle East

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

At a Senate hearing on prospects for a political settlement of the Afghan conflict, there was scant mention of the leaked material, posted on the website of the whistleblower group WikiLeaks, but there were repeated expressions of frustration over the direction of the fighting.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who has questioned the realism of U.S. goals in Afghanistan though he supports the war, pointedly asked why the Taliban, with fewer resources and smaller numbers, can field fighters who are more committed to winning than are Afghan soldiers.

“What’s going on here?” Kerry asked with exasperation.

Still, the House seemed ready to vote final approval for more than $33.5 billion for the additional 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and to pay for other Pentagon operational expenses. Other non-war provisions brought the total bill to nearly $59 billion.

Republicans were strongly behind the major war spending, with opposition coming mostly from members of Obama’s own Democratic Party who argued that the money could be better spent at home. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said the leaked documents revealed corruption and incompetence in the Afghanistan government.

“We’re told we can’t extend unemployment or pay to keep cops on the beat or teachers in the classroom but we’re asked to borrow another $33 billion for nation-building in Afghanistan,” McGovern said.

At the separate Senate hearing, meanwhile, Sen. Edward Kaufman, D-Del., questioned whether the U.S.-led war effort is capable of pushing the Afghan government to provide the kind of leadership that wins the confidence of the population.

“Can we carry this off?” Kaufman asked.

In his first public comments on the weekend leak of tens of thousands of documents, 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.

Obama said the shortcomings in Afghanistan as reflected in the leaked documents explain why, last year, he undertook an in-depth review of the war and developed a new strategy.

“We’ve substantially increased our commitment there, insisted upon greater accountability from our partners in Afghanistan and Pakistan, developed a new strategy that can work and put in place a team, including one of our finest generals, to execute that plan,” Obama said. “Now we have to see that strategy through.”

The leaked documents are battlefield reports compiled by various military units in Afghanistan that provide an unflinching view of combat operations between 2004 and 2009, including U.S. displeasure over reports that Pakistan secretly aided insurgents fighting American and Afghan forces.

Even as the administration dismissed the leaked documents as outdated, U.S. military and intelligence analysts were caught up in a struggle to limit the damage contained in the once-secret files now scattered across the Internet.

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.

Officials also are concerned about the impact the disclosures could have on the military’s human intelligence network built up over the past eight years inside Afghanistan and Pakistan. The people in that network range from Afghan village elders who have worked behind the scenes with U.S. troops to militants working as double agents.

Beyond expressions of disgust at the document dump, the political fallout in Washington appeared limited.

Advocates of pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan said the leaks reinforced their argument for disengaging. War supporters said they illustrated why Obama was right to decide last December to send an additional 30,000 troops and step up pressure on the Afghan government to reform, while pressing Pakistan to go after insurgents on its side of the border.

At the State Department, spokesman P.J. Crowley said efforts to explain to Afghanistan and other allies that the U.S. government played no role in leaking the documents seemed to have paid off.

“We’re very gratified that the response thus far internationally has been moderate, sober,” Crowley said.

In his only reference to the leak, Kerry called the new material “over-hyped,” said that it was released in violation of the law and that it largely involved raw intelligence reports from the field.

The House, meanwhile, prepared to approve legislation to pay for the extra 30,000 troops.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., said he was torn between his obligation to bring the bill to the floor and his “profound skepticism” that the money would lead to a successful conclusion of the war.

Even if there were greater confidence, he said, “it would likely take so long it will obliterate our ability to make the kinds of long-term investments in our own country that are so desperately needed.”

About Luis Miranda
The Real Agenda is an independent publication. It does not take money from Corporations, Foundations or Non-Governmental Organizations. It provides news reports in three languages: English, Spanish and Portuguese to reach a larger group of readers. Our news are not guided by any ideological, political or religious interest, which allows us to keep our integrity towards the readers.

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