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Rep. Obey: Afghan War Must Be Paid For

The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee said Tuesday night that President Obama "inherited a god awful mess [in Afghanistan] and he has no good choices," but that it is irresponsible to continue the war there without finding a way to pay for it.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wisc., spoke with "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric following Mr. Obama's address to the nation outlining a new strategy in Afghan.

Obey criticized the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on economic grounds and recently proposed a war tax to pay for an escalated war in Afghanistan.

Thought it's impossible to know Obey's motives, the tax seems to be less a serious policy proposal and more an effort to call out GOP deficit hawks who abandon their fiscal restraint when it comes to deficit-funded wars. (Obey has similarly called political bluffs in the past.)

"The fact is we've been told all throughout the health care debate that we must pay for every dollar of that bill," Obey said. "Well if that's the case they why should we not also pay for this effort? This effort is not just going to cost $30 billion on top of what we're already spending in Afghanistan – it's going to cost over $90 billion in a year."

More Coverage of Obama's Speech on Afghanistan:

Obama Announces Troop Surge, Exit Plan
Text of Obama's Remarks
Marc Ambinder's Analysis: Obama Taking Big Risk
Who Offers the Better Deal in Afghanistan?
Liberal Lawmakers, Activists Chastise Afghanistan Troop Increase
Polling Analysis: Afghanistan 2009 Vs. Iraq 2007 Special Report: Afghanistan

As to Mr. Obama's proposed Afghan strategy itself, Obey expressed skepticism.

"If I thought that we could honestly begin to withdraw our troops in 18 months I would feel better about this," he said. "You can have the best policy in the world, but if you don't have the tools on the ground that policy doesn't work. Our two tools are the government of Pakistan, the government of Afghanistan and both of them in my judgment are terribly weak reeds to rely upon."

He suggested that the U.S. needs a firm outline for withdrawal, saying that "we are not going to sit by while [Afghan President Hamid Karzai] continues to fiddle away his country's future by the corruption and by the lack of performance that we've seen by the government."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., spoke with Couric after Obey and argued against setting any timeframe for withdrawal.

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