WASHINGTON — Republican congressional leaders urged President Obama on Tuesday to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, saying he should act quickly lest any delay endanger troops who already are there and are facing a deteriorating situation.
"Time is not on our side," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as he left the White House after a bipartisan meeting with Obama. "We need to act with deliberate haste."
"He wants ample time to make a good decision. Frankly, I support that," added Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, his party's leader in the House of Representatives.
"But we need to remember that every day that goes by, the troops that we do have there are in greater danger. I don't believe the president needs to make a decision in haste, but we need to get this right."
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Obama, who later this week will hold his third and fourth of five scheduled meetings to rethink strategy in the eight-year-old Afghanistan war, didn't tell the top lawmakers from both parties what or when he'll decide. However, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., his party's No. 2 leader in the House, emerged saying that it will be soon. "Weeks, not months," he said.
Obama earlier Tuesday vowed a sustained campaign against the al-Qaida terrorist network, but noticeably didn't mention Afghanistan or the Taliban regime there that harbored al-Qaida terrorists when they were planning the 2001 terrorist attacks.
"We know that al-Qaida and its extremist allies threaten us from different corners of the globe," Obama said during a speech at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Va.
"We will target al-Qaida wherever they take root," he added. "We are developing the capacity and the cooperation to deny a safe haven to any who threaten America and its allies."
His failure to mention Afghanistan at a time when he's focused intensely on deciding what to do there could be interpreted as signaling a tilt toward a scaled-down presence there that would focus more on counter-terrorism strikes on al-Qaida targets, particularly in Pakistan.