NRCC - Shea-Porter (Finally) Confirms Flip-Flop on Troop Surge

In 2008 Carol Shea-Porter joined 47 of her Democrat colleagues in drafting a letter calling for a renewed focus on Afghanistan…

Shea-Porter Still Wary of Afghan Escalation

By John DiStaso

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 11, 2009

U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter said today that recent testimony from ambassadors and generals has not convinced her that sending 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan is worth the risk in terms of lives and dollars.

The second-term Democrat, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told she expects to return to Afghanistan “within the next couple of months” to gather more information.

She said that while she did support a heightened U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan in 2007, questions began arising earlier this year.

Last week, after President Barack Obama announced the troop escalation, she said she her “inclination” was to oppose his plan, but that she wanted to hear from defense secretary Robert Gates, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and other officials before reaching a definitive conclusion.

“Based on what I have learned so far, I have not been persuaded,” Shea-Porter said. “I have kept an open mind.”

She said she will return to Afghanistan to seek more answers from McChrystal and Eikenberry, “and they are best asked there.” She last visited Afghanistan in May.

“I do agree that we need to have a presence in Afghanistan. We have to hunt down terrorists and kill them. There is no other option,” she said.

“But keeping mind that there’s about 100 to 200 al-Qaida there, but then also knowing that Pakistan is next door, with nuclear weapons, this is a very, very tricky balance,” she said.

She said that while she supports having U.S. special forces in Afghanistan, “I don’t think NATO has stepped up enough.

“I am underwhelmed by the offer of 5,000 troops, when you look at the commitment that our own men and women are making.”

She said the financial cost is also a “huge issue.”

She also wants more clarity on “how long we’re going to be there. I’m not asking for an exit date. I don’t think that’s a good idea, but when the president of Afghanistan says that he thinks he needs us there until 2024 and when you hear Gen. (David) Petreaus say this will cost us $10 billion a year to build up Afghanistan’s security and you hear the general’s talk about a 14-year plan, then Americans have a right to pause and say, ‘How are we going to pay for this? Is this the best way to do this?’ ”

She said the goal is to kill terrorists and be wary of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, “but we also need to have Afghanistan start stepping up for themselves.”Shea-Porter said she spoke with a security expert from the Rand Corporation yesterday and was told that the Karzai government is corrupt, “and we need to be working with the tribes to help them defend themselves from the Taliban.”

Shea-Porter brushed off Republican accusations that she has flip-flopped on Afghanistan.

“This issue should not be political at all,” she said. “Our nation’s defense should never be political.“The world changes and when the world changes, if people need to change, they should,” she said. “It’s a very fluid situation and we have to respond. Our minds have to be open.”

Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., backed Obama’s proposal but opposed setting a specific withdrawal date, while Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., agreed with his plan.

Rep. Paul Hodes, D-N.H., remains noncommittal.

His spokesman, Aaron Rottenstein, said today that Hodes “is committed to examining every detail of the plan for Afghanistan to ensure that it aligns with the fundamentals he laid out immediately following the President’s speech.

“As someone who has stood with New Hampshire families as they have grieved over loved ones lost in defense of our country, Congressman Hodes is committed to giving the President’s plan due consideration, but remains committed to executing independent oversight over all aspects of the plan."