July 27, 2010 / 10:12 PM / 9 years ago

Congress approves Afghan surge funds

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congress on Tuesday approved funding to pay for President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan troop increase despite growing skepticism among some lawmakers over the course of the nine-year-old war.

The final action came as the House of Representatives approved the measure by a vote of 308 to 114.

The Senate had already passed the bill, which will now go to Obama to be signed into law. It provides $33 billion mostly for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, although some covers expenses in Iraq.

There is also nearly $4 billion for a related civilian surge of economic aid to Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.

More Republicans supported the bill than Democrats. Obama’s Democrats, who are divided over the war, stalled on the measure for months and 102 of them voted against the new spending.

The money is in addition to about $130 billion Congress already approved for Afghanistan and Iraq for this year. Congress has appropriated more than $1 trillion for the two wars since 2001.

Critics in Congress said the leak of military records reinforced their view that the price of continuing the war in Afghanistan was too high, given mounting U.S. domestic needs.

The documents released by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks painted a grim picture of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and raised new doubts about key ally Pakistan.

“I cannot look my constituents in the eye and say that this operation will hurt our enemies more than it will hurt us,” said House Appropriations Chairman David Obey.

But Republicans and some Democrats, like House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, said the Pentagon had waited long enough for the money to pay for 30,000 additional troops that Obama is sending to Afghanistan this year.

They convinced some war skeptics that it was wrong to delay funding for troops that have already been sent.

“Most inexplicable is the six-month delay that has kept our brave troops waiting for far too long,” said Republican Harold Rogers.

The Obama administration requested the funds in February and the Pentagon had warned it might have to cut back civilian salaries if the money was not approved by August.

“Over the past several weeks we have had to take extraordinary measures to fund our military operations around the world this late in the fiscal year,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said in a statement after the House vote.

“But thankfully the money provided in the supplemental ensures that we will be able to continue the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq while we plus-up forces in Afghanistan as part of our efforts to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda.”

Editing by John O'Callaghan

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