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Obama Wants $14 Billion More To Train Afghan Forces

Afghan soldiers, armed with U.S.-made M16 rifles, take part in combat training on the outskirts of Kabul in late December.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. President Barack Obama plans to ask Congress for another $14.2 billion to train Afghanistan's Army and police over the next two years, a move a key lawmaker welcomed as part of a long-term U.S. commitment to that country's military.

The proposed amount -- more than double the $6.6 billion already allocated for Afghan security forces this year -- emerged in draft Pentagon budget documents for the rest of this year and fiscal 2011. The sum was first reported by "Congress Daily."

Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters he thought the reported funding was "a worthy investment."

Training the Afghans to take on the responsibility of fighting the Taliban would help reduce U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and was ultimately an expense "much smaller than our [U.S. troops] being there," said Levin, a Democrat.

"I don't think it's a one-time investment," Levin added in a press conference on Capitol Hill. "There will be an ongoing commitment of American resources to train and equip the Afghan army and police," he said.

The U.S. budget for fiscal 2011, as well as Obama's request for $33 billion in emergency funds to support his U.S. troop buildup in Afghanistan for the rest of fiscal 2010, is expected to be released by the White House on February 1.

According to the draft Pentagon documents, the Defense Department will ask for an extra $2.6 billion for the Afghan Army and police for this year, and $11.6 billion for fiscal 2011, which starts in October.

The money is needed to try to grow the Afghan security forces from a level of 190,820 last November to 305,600 by October 2011, the documents said.

Obama said in December he would send 30,000 extra U.S. troops to Afghanistan, in addition to the 68,000 already there. But he also said he hoped to start pulling some U.S. troops out in mid-2011 as they gradually hand over security to the Afghans.