Petraeus says budget delays not affecting Afghan war… yet

March 18, 2011

The commander of international forces in Afghanistan is keeping a wary eye on budget battles in Congress these days.

General David Petraeus says failure to pass a budget this year has noUSA/t yet complicated the war effort against al Qaeda.

But there’s a point at which it will begin to have an impact, he told an event  sponsored by the National Journal on Friday at the Newseum.

The U.S. Air Force has urgently sought additional Reaper hunter-killer drones for use in Afghanistan, Petraeus said. Failure to pass President Barack Obama’s budget could block that.

The president also asked for an increase in funding to train, equip and sustain the Afghan military as it prepares to assume the lead role in providing security for the country. That’s a necessary step before U.S. forces can hand over control and return home.

Petraeus said if the budget is not passed, those funds could be capped at a much lower level.

Cuts to the State Department and USAID budgets were also on his mind. He said he had “grave concerns about the inadequate levels of funding” proposed for the two agencies by budget-cutters in the House of Representatives.

“These are national security issues,” he said. “This isn’t just — and I don’t want to diminish the importance of foreign assistance or humanitarian aid or something like that — but this category is what our troops who’ve fought so hard and sacrificed so much to achieve need to cement the gains on the ground,” Petraeus said.

He said the military needed the civilian expertise provided by State Department and USAID personnel as well as the funding those agencies require to support Afghan development and reconstruction.

“We do clear and hold,” he added. “It’s State and AID that helps do the build.”

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Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Petraeus testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee March 15)

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