Pa.'s Casey wants answers on Afghanistan strategy

February 23, 2009 12:41:17 PM PST
Many questions about U.S. objectives in Afghanistan need to be answered before more American troops are sent there, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Monday. Casey told The Associated Press in an interview that both military and nonmilitary goals, including an exit strategy and humanitarian aid, should be fully scrutinized by Congress before more soldiers are mobilized. President Barack Obama this month announced the deployment of 17,000 additional U.S. forces.

"I don't think the administration can just say we need 17,000 and we're going to send them without a discussion of what's the rationale for it, how those troops will be used and what's the goal," the Pennsylvania Democrat said.

Casey, who is beginning his third year in the Senate, said the Bush administration distorted the military goals in Iraq with what he called "cowboy talk" about that war being a choice between victory or defeat.

"The American people were never really sure what our end game was," he said.

Casey also said he hopes that the appointments of new federal prosecutors in Pennsylvania can be completed by May or June, now that Attorney General Eric Holder has been confirmed by the Senate. The president will nominate those prosecutors based on recommendations from Casey and the state's senior senator, Republican Arlen Specter.

On a state issue, the senator said he could not support putting tolls along Interstate 80 to help finance an expansion of state highway and bridge repairs.

A plan to collect tolls along the roadway's 311-mile length from Ohio to New Jersey was approved by the state Legislature but rejected last fall by federal regulators. Later this year, Congress is expected to consider whether to make it easier for states to put tolls on interstate highways or ban such tolls.

Casey said he would oppose tolls on interstates unless there are clear economic benefits to communities located along the highway. If necessary, he said he might support a ban.

"I wouldn't rule out voting that way, because that may be the only way to prevent an adverse impact on those communities," he said.

Casey, who ran for governor in 2002 but lost the primary to now-Gov. Ed Rendell, said he will not run for governor next year. Rendell is expected to leave office in 2011 after completing the maximum two terms.

"I've had enough elections for a while," said Casey, who ousted conservative Republican Sen. Rick Santorum in 2006.

The senator, whose late father was a popular two-term governor, did not entirely shut the door on a gubernatorial bid later on.

"I would never rule that out for a lifetime," he said.

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