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The U.S. strategy in Afghanistan will require more than targeted missile strikes and use of special operations forces to succeed and should include counterterrorism efforts coordinated closely with ground troops, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman said after a visit to the region.
"I do not believe that a counterterrorism strategy all by itself without a sufficient level of counterinsurgency will work," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. "If you don't have a presence on the ground that's effective, it's almost impossible to collect the kind of intelligence that you need to be equally effective in your counterterrorism."
Kerry's comments in television interviews broadcast Sunday came as President Barack Obama considers a proposal to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Some of the president's closest advisers, including Vice President Joe Biden, have advocated a more focused military approach, targeting al-Qaida with missile-carrying unmanned aircraft and U.S. special forces strikes in Pakistan.
But that's not enough, Kerry said in interviews taped Saturday in Kabul, the Afghan capital, after a trip that included a meeting with Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander in the country
The general has outlined a proposal for Obama that includes adding as many as 80,000 more U.S. troops or as few as 10,000 to aid in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan.
Kerry is not promoting sending more troops now. That would be irresponsible, he said, when Afghanistan's election is not yet finished.
"I don't see how President Obama can make a decision about the committing of our additional forces or even the further fulfillment of our mission that's here today without an adequate government in place or knowledge about what that government's going to be," he said.
Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, is resisting international pressure to accept fraud rulings that could force him into a runoff with his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah.
Kerry said there also should be a clear commitment in Afghanistan to eliminating government waste and corruption before Obama agrees to send more U.S. troops.
"I believe it is critical for us to be satisfied that the reform efforts that are absolutely mandatory within the government here are in fact going to take place and be fully implemented," he said.
Kerry dismissed criticism that Obama's deliberations on additional troops is a sign of indecision or weakness.
"I think this is being approached in an entirely responsible way," he said. "General McChrystal told me that even if the commander in chief made the decision tomorrow to put those troops in here, many of them wouldn't even begin to start to flow here until next year because that's the way it works."
Kerry appeared on CNN's "State of the Union" and CBS' "Face the Nation."
This program aired on October 18, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
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