Senator John F. Kerry, a key ally for President Obama on his new Afghanistan strategy, offered a qualified endorsement Tuesday night for the troop surge.
Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in statement that he will support the 30,000 additional troops -- as long as responsibility for security is rapidly transferred to Afghan forces "because anything short of that will end in failure, no matter how many troops we send to Afghanistan."
He also praised Obama for laying out a narrower mission "not an open-ended nation-building exercise," and for focusing on Pakistan as the key battle against terrorists.
"I believe that the President defined a narrower mission tonight, not an open-ended nation-building exercise," Kerry said in his statement. "A key component of that mission is providing that the troops will only clear and hold in places where there is capacity to build and transfer beneath them and that there will be significant partnering with Afghans in all of these efforts. That includes finding reliable Afghan partners in governance. If these criteria are met, then there is a chance for success.
"The President is correct to say the essential focus must be on Pakistan. What happens in Pakistan, particularly in the west, will be more critical to the outcome in Afghanistan than the increase in troops or shift in strategy there. I will support additional troops, providing their deployment stays within the strict understanding of the need to transfer and build as well as partner with Afghans. The only way to be successful is to rapidly transfer responsibility to the Afghans and anything short of that will end in failure, no matter how many troops we send to Afghanistan. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will continue to examine our Afghan policy in public hearings in the coming days and beyond."
UPDATE: This afternoon, Kerry's office formally announced that the Foreign Relations Committee will hold its hearing Thursday morning on the Afghan plan.
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Rear Admiral Michael G. Mullen are scheduled to testify. They spoke today to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.