Levin Prods Obama On Afghan Troops President Obama met Tuesday with a bipartisan group of lawmakers over the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who was at the meeting, says he told Obama there hadn't been enough energy devoted to getting the Afghan army and police up to speed.
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Levin Prods Obama On Afghan Troops

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Levin Prods Obama On Afghan Troops

Levin Prods Obama On Afghan Troops

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

President Obama has been meeting this week with advisers to make a decision about how to move ahead in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Yesterday, more than 30 members of Congress from both parties headed over to the White House for a briefing. Mr. Obama has to contend with a split in his own party. Some Democrats want him to send more troops, as the top general in Afghanistan has requested. Others are skeptical that more troops will do any good. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan got a private meeting with the president yesterday to express his concerns. And Senator Levin joins us now. Welcome back to the program, Senator.

CARL LEVIN: Good to be with you.

NORRIS: Senator, I'd like to ask you about that meeting that you had with President Obama. What are you able to tell us about the counsel that you gave him and his response to it?

LEVIN: I told him that I thought there had not been enough energy devoted to getting the Afghan army and the police up to speed, up to both the much bigger size and much better equipped. And I pointed out just a couple of examples, that we have no major effort going on in the equipment side. We have got no effort that we're making to have a plan for the reintegration of these lower-level Taliban folks the way that plan worked in Iraq. Everybody says that they want Afghan forces to be increased, that no matter whether people favor a counterinsurgency strategy or a counterterrorist strategy or some blend of the two - and yet we don't see the - I don't see the energy behind those words, and that's what I pointed out to the president.

NORRIS: Senator, Senator Reid said yesterday that the party will support President Obama no matter what he decides. But there are a lot of Democrats, as I understand, who are very worried that he might decide ultimately to send more troops to Afghanistan. What was the tone of yesterday's meeting? There were more than 30 members of Congress in that room, lot of people in that room.

LEVIN: The tone, I would say generally, was a desire on the part of people there, Democrats and Republicans, to be supportive of the president if possible, and understanding that he's in a deliberative process now. And that he needs the space, the way we gave space to President Bush when he was considering a request for a surge of troops in Iraq. President Bush, as I pointed out yesterday at the White House, was given three months - not given. He took three months to make a decision on whether to increase the U.S. troop level there. And he was not pressured during that period of time to listen to his commander - who didn't favor additional troops, by the way. He was given the space and given the time to reach a decision which he felt comfortable with. And while obviously we don't want any undue delay here, we - it seems to me - ought to provide President Obama that same kind of space and consideration that President Bush got.

NORRIS: However, the commanders on the ground, although they haven't said this explicitly, seem to be sending the message that time is of the essence, that President Obama perhaps doesn't have the gift of time.

LEVIN: Yeah, but General McChrystal said two other things. In his report, he said more important than resources is the right strategy. We need a new strategy. And he also has pointed out, it's a lengthy report, that there's a number of other aspects to this, including the economic development aspect and the governance aspect. And the other thing, which general McChrystal has said explicitly, is that it is right to take the time to get this right.

NORRIS: And when Senator Reid says that the party will rally behind the president no matter what he decides, do you think that that's actually true? Because when said that, the body language suggested that not everybody was necessarily in agreement.

LEVIN: I think not only would most Democrats - would like to find a way to support the president, I think most Republicans would like to find a way to support the president in a decision. So I just think it's a mistake to look at this on a partisan basis because it's simply not a partisan issue. It isn't any more than the Iraq War was a partisan issue.

NORRIS: Senator Levin, thank you so much for your time...

LEVIN: Sure.

NORRIS: That's Senator Carl Levin, Democrat from Michigan.

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