POLITICS

John Kerry: If Gen. David Petraeus Wanted More Troops For Afghanistan I'd Say 'No'

08/01/2010 10:58 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) stressed on Sunday that he would oppose requests for additional troops in Afghanistan even if military commanders on the ground requested the help.

Speaking on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS," the Massachusetts Democrat complimented the president for his strategy and commitment to the Afghan war. He would not speak with specificity about how he envisioned a military withdrawal from that country, only saying he didn't expect the United States to "pull the rug out" once the military began transitioning out of that theater in July 2011.

But he did fully rule out the possibility of supporting enhanced engagement:

ZAKARIA: What if General Petraeus says I need more time, I need maybe even 10,000 more troops?

KERRY: I personally would say, no, I don't think troops are the answer. The answer is a political resolution. And that political resolution has to come about by engaging to a greater degree with India, with Pakistan itself.

The comments from Kerry will, undoubtedly, be welcome news for skeptics of the war who are wary of escalation and were given a scare one month ago when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) argued that Congress should grant Petraeus a request for more troops should he make one.

As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry holds strong sway over the course of the Afghan policy debate. And his commitment to more aggressive diplomatic and political engagement with Pakistan has already made its mark -- with Congress appropriating unprecedented levels of funding to help stabilize that country. Kerry expanded on his proposed strategy on Sunday:

KERRY: "I think we should also engage China, Russia. And I would say to you that the possibility could exist even of Iran playing a role in helping to change the equation on the ground."

ZAKARIA: And you would talk to Iran about that?

KERRY: Absolutely. You bet I would. I think it could become a way even to get in on the other issues of concern to us, not just nuclear, but the whole regional issue. But I think Iran has interests in Afghanistan. They don't like the Taliban. They don't like narcotics being transited. There are reasons that they would want a stable government there. And I think that we should -- you know, diplomacy is the art of playing to everybody's interests. And everybody has some interests with respect to this outcome.

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