House Voting Big War Funds, Despite Afghan Leaks

Associated Press + More

WASHINGTON — The House prepared Tuesday to send President Barack Obama a major war-funding increase of $33 billion to pay for his troop surge in Afghanistan, unmoved by the leaking of classified military documents that portray a military effort struggling between 2004 and 2009 against a strengthening insurgency.

From Obama on down, the disclosure of the documents was condemned 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.

Republicans in Congress still were strongly behind the boost in war spending, with opposition coming mostly from members of Obama's own Democratic Party.

In the House debate, 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. [See who donates the most money to McGovern.]

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.

But Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a vocal supporter of the war, took issue at a separate hearing with anyone who would argue that the leaked documents buttress arguments for withdrawing now from Afghanistan.

"In actuality, the emerging picture from these documents appears to be little more than what we knew already: that the war in Afghanistan was deteriorating over the past several years," McCain said. [See which industries donate the most money to McCain.]

Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis told senators at a hearing on his nomination to lead the military's Central Command that, whatever other lessons are drawn from the WikiLeaks documents, no one should doubt that the U.S. is committed to staying in Afghanistan until it wins.

"We are on the right track now," Mattis said.

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 House vote was on 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.

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.