Congressman Tom Latham says the situation in Afghanistan is a “great concern,” but Latham doesn’t expect whatever military course President Obama chooses to be a major factor in the 2010 election. “I still think the economy (and) jobs are going to be the focus for most people because Americans are hurting today. They are scared for their jobs. A lot of people are underemployed. Even if they have a part-time job, they don’t have the income,” Latham says.
“But certainly the situation in Afghanistan, throughout the Middle East, with Iran today are of great concern to a lot of folks. Now, how that plays out politically, that’s another thing.” The president is considering sending more troops to Afghanistan. Latham, a Republican from Ames, supports such a surge.
“I believe that we should follow what the generals, basically, are telling us, that if we want to be successful that they need certain tools,” Latham says. “And it’s either a matter of following what their recommendations are or getting out, in my mind.” Former Vice President Dick Cheney has accused President Obama of “dithering” over his Afghanistan decision.
Obama’s spokesman shot back Thursday, saying Cheney and President Bush let the military’s request for more troops sit on their desks for the last eight months of the Bush presidency. Latham says unless the recommendations from the generals on the ground are followed, the U.S. will be setting itself up for a “long term problem” in Afghanistan.
“And I’m afraid what’s going to happen is that we’re going to have a slight change in policy, we’re only going to have about half of the new troops sent in that were requested, it’s going to deepen our involvement, but have little chance of success,” Latham says. “And I think, if we’re going to do it, let’s make sure that we give the people on the ground the tools and the people they are requesting.”
The results of the presidential election in Afghanistan in August were called into question after widepsread reports of vote fraud. It’s unclear whether Obama’s decision on U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan will be made before or after the November 7th run-off election there. Latham isn’t sure Americans are ready for a decades-long commitment to Afghanistan.
“If in fact the policy is to be successful in Afghanistan to protect America from future expansion of al Qaeda there and giving them safe haven, then I think we have to follow the recommendations of the generals on the ground,” Latham says. Latham made his comments during a recent appearance on the I-P-T-V program, “Iowa Press.” Latham was among a delegation of six congressmen who visited Iraq and Afghanistan in February. During an interview with Radio Iowa shortly after his return, Latham called Afghanistan a “very, very difficult” place.