Speaker dislikes surtax to pay for war

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Thursday threw cold water on the idea of a war surtax to help pay for President Obama's troop buildup in Afghanistan, adding that the deficit will be a concern when the House begins to review the costs. "I am not in support of the proposal," said Pelosi, referring to the surtax idea floated by House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis.

Pelosi also said at her weekly news conference that House members will be seeking more details on Obama's Afghanistan plan "so we can make some judgment about the nature of the threat." Among the questions Pelosi said she wants answered is why generals now recommending a troop buildup to Obama apparently did not make the same recommendation to former President George W. Bush.

Pelosi said the president "has been dealt a terrible hand, and now he has to deal with that."

Meanwhile, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., said at a hearing this morning that a crucial piece of the Afghan war strategy is how the United States will deal with neighboring Pakistan, which has become a haven for terrorists. "What happens in Pakistan ... will do more to determine the outcome in Afghanistan than any increase in troops or shift in strategy," Kerry said, according to the Associated Press. Opening a hearing on Afghan strategy, Kerry said that it is the "presence of al-Qaida in Pakistan, its direct ties to and support from the Taliban in Afghanistan and the perils of an unstable, nuclear-armed Pakistan that drive our mission."

Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Richard Lugar, R-Ind., agreed, saying the president and the administration "must justify their plan not only on the basis of how it will affect Afghanistan, but on how it will impact our efforts to promote a much stronger alliance with Pakistan."

Lugar said "it is not clear how an expanded military effort in Afghanistan addresses the problem of Taliban and al-Qaida safe havens across the border in Pakistan."

The House Armed Services Committee also was hearing testimony this afternoon from Defense Secretary Robert Gates about Obama's plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan - the largest expansion of the war since it began eight years ago.

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