WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she sees little support in Congress or elsewhere in the country for sending more troops to Afghanistan, signaling trouble for President Barack Obama’s new war strategy at a critical point in the war.
Pelosi’s comment represented a key indication of growing opposition among congressional Democrats to sending more troops, and several experts warned Thursday that the administration must move quickly to better explain its approach.
Pelosi, D-Calif., became the highest ranking lawmaker to publicly express doubt about further troop increases. Her comment to reporters came the week after the top U.S. and allied commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, submitted a classified assessment that lays the groundwork for what is expected to be a request for additional combat forces.
Pelosi and other members of Congress are due to be briefed on the assessment, but she told reporters that a request for additional troops would not be well received.
Obama previously approved sending 21,000 additional troops for Afghanistan to boost the U.S. force to 68,000. Many Democrats and even some conservative Republicans are growing nervous about the build-up.
Meanwhile, polls show declining support for the war effort. A CNN/Opinion Research poll last week showed 57 percent of Americans oppose the war, up 11 points since April.
Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., the chairman of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee, has said he wants the administration to be “extra careful” about sending more troops.
Analysts said that the Obama administration faces a potentially cold reception from Congress as it mulls its new strategy and potential troop increase.
“There is no question that quite a number of members of Congress … have very serious questions about whether we should stay in Afghanistan and whether more resources are required,” said Anthony Cordesman, a military strategist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Still, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters he was urging lawmakers to wait and see what Obama recommends.
“And then we can dissect that any way we want,” he said.