Levin stress training for Afghan forces

Dec. 2, 2009 at 1:30 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. mission in Afghanistan should be to build up national security forces so Afghans can take responsibility for their safety, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin said.

Levin, the Democratic chairman the Senate Armed Services Committee, testified before the committee Wednesday following a major policy speech by U.S. President Barack Obama on the revised strategy for the Afghan war.

Obama in a prime-time speech delivered Tuesday announced plans to deploy 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. His plan stressed the training of Afghan troops with the goal of drawing down American forces starting in July 2011 based on conditions on the ground.

Levin, a senator from Michigan, said he backed the presidential aim of enhancing the capability of Afghan national forces.

"I believe the principal mission of U.S. troop increases in Afghanistan should be to accelerate the transition to Afghan forces taking the lead for providing Afghanistan's security," he said.

Levin in September stressed that more Afghan troops were needed in order to achieve the goal in Afghanistan "before we consider whether to increase U.S. combat forces above the levels already planned for the next few months."

In his Wednesday statement to the Armed Services Committee, Levin pointed to assessments from U.S. military commanders who said it should be Afghan soldiers shouldering the burden of security for their country.

"That should be the stated mission, and troop increases should be judged by whether they advance that mission," the senator said.

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