* Obama pledges "last" supplemental request
* Aid for Mexico, Guantanamo shutdown also included
(Updates with Obama, adds Gates and members of Congress)
By Andrew Gray
WASHINGTON, April 9 President Barack Obama
asked the U.S Congress on Thursday for an extra $83.4 billion
to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year, citing
threats from al Qaeda and a resurgent Taliban.
The request, to cover the rest of the 2009 fiscal year
which ends on Sept. 30, comes on top of more than $822 billion
that Congress has approved to fund the wars since September
2001, Obama said.
"We face a security situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan
that demands urgent attention," he said in a letter to Nancy
Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, urging
lawmakers to approve his request swiftly.
"The Taliban is resurgent and al Qaeda threatens America
from its safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border."
Almost 95 percent of the funding would go to support
military efforts to stabilize Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan,
Obama said in the letter released by the White House.
The request also includes funding for other national
security priorities of the administration, including assistance
for anti-drug efforts in Mexico, security assistance in Lebanon
and closing down the Guantanamo Bay prison.
Congress has already approved $65.9 billion for the wars in
2009 and some anti-war Democrats expressed reservations about
the new request.
But Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Obama's policies on
Iraq and Afghanistan enjoyed broad support on Capitol Hill.
"The alternative to the supplemental is a sudden and
precipitous withdrawal ... from both places. And I don't know
anybody who thinks that's a good idea," Gates said.
OBAMA PLANS END TO SUPPLEMENTALS
The administration of former President George W. Bush was
widely criticized for using such supplemental requests to fund
the wars. Both Democrats and Republicans said such urgent
requests faced less scrutiny than the regular budget.
Obama has pledged to put an end to the practice and he said
Thursday's request was "the last planned supplemental".
The White House said it had to submit another large
supplemental request this time because the wars were only
half-funded for the rest of the 2009 fiscal year.
"The honest budget and appropriations process that the
president has talked about falls somewhat victim to the fact
that this is the way that wars have been funded previously,"
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told a news briefing.
Representative Jim McGovern, a Democrat, said he was very
worried about by Obama's plan to send tens of thousands more
troops to Afghanistan, and was not a guaranteed "yes" vote for
"I was against the war in Iraq from the very beginning, and
I don't want us to make the same mistake the second time,"
McGovern told Reuters.
Steny Hoyer, the leader of the Democratic majority in the
House of Representatives, indicated the request would be dealt
"Timely consideration of the supplemental is especially
important to our men and women in uniform, who depend on it for
the resources they need to do their jobs," he said.
"Congress looks forward to giving it that consideration in
the weeks to come," Hoyer said in a statement.
(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, David Alexander, Jeff
Mason and Jeremy Pelofsky; editing by Mohammad Zargham)