Cheney urges strong U.S. commitment to Afghan war

BENTON HARBOR, Michigan (Reuters) - Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday urged President Barack Obama to commit enough troops to win the war in Afghanistan, warning hesitation would embolden U.S. foes and devastate its allies.

Vice President Dick Cheney speaks about national security at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington in this file image from May 21, 2009. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/Files

“I don’t see how he can do anything other than move aggressively to achieve victory,” the Wyoming Republican, a harsh critic of the new administration, said in a speech to a Michigan business group.

“Our adversaries take heart from our hesitation and vacillation,” Cheney said.

“Our not following through will have devastating consequences not only for Afghanistan but also for our NATO allies. This is the first time ever (NATO members have) committed troops to combat.”

The White House has not said when Obama is likely to make a decision on his Afghanistan strategy, though an administration official said it was unlikely to occur before he embarks on a trip to Asia on November 11.

Republicans have criticized Obama for taking too long to review the Afghan strategy, which was put in place in March.

Cheney said Obama should take the advice of his military commanders to bolster the U.S. contingent of 65,000 troops by the maximum sought by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who has recommended an additional 40,000 troops.

Among other options that have emerged are adding 10,000 to 15,000 troops who would focus on training Afghan forces.

“I’m worried the consideration of fewer troops may be a political one. I think that is wrong,” Cheney said.

“This cannot be about his standings in the polls or how his party will do in the next election. It’s about what ... is needed for victory.”

Cheney also urged caution in withdrawing U.S. troops too hastily from Iraq, saying the United States had an “obligation” to protect the fledgling Iraqi democracy.

He also reiterated his strident criticism of the Obama administration’s probe into alleged torture of terror suspects during the Bush administration and the U.S. leader’s pledge to close the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

“The thing that worries me most ... is this mind-set of sort of going back to the old notion that fighting terrorism is a law enforcement problem. Once you start thinking about it like that, you’re not going to do much with your military capability, you’re not going to use your intelligence assets,” Cheney said.

“I’d be a lot more comfortable if the people in the Obama administration would realize we’re at war. This is not a time to read the rights to some terrorist.”

Editing by Paul Simao