Richard Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, said in Senate testimony today that as 3,200 U.S. marines arrive in Afghanistan in March, "we're definitely going to use the deployment . . . as a lever to get other countries to step up."
Both the State and Defense departments, Boucher told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, are pressuring allies within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to send more troops to the war-torn nation, where security is deteriorating. "If you look at the NATO requirements, there are still shortfalls, both in fighters and in trainers especially," Boucher testified.
Boucher's testimony comes as several independent reports and some lawmakers suggest that Afghanistan stability is fraying.
Retired Gen. James Jones, the former Supreme Allied commander of Europe from 2003 to 2006, said that Afghanistan is suffering from a "loss of momentum."
The heroin trade is increasing as well, noted Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, during testimony to discuss "A Plan to Turn the Tide in Afghanistan."
David Johnson, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, told the committee that in order to attack the drug trade, his office has considered alternative development programs as well as improvements to the police and judicial system.
"Our experience is that that doesn't work," he said, adding that improving security within the country is paramount. Johnson added that U.S. officials "considered aerial spraying" for crop eradication, but the "essential ingredient" is that the local authorities accept such spraying.
Sen. Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, asked which country, Iraq or Afghanistan, was more essential to American security. Boucher said that answering that is like responding to "Which of your kids do you like best?" Boucher added, "If you don't stabilize both places, you'll never stabilize either one."