Washington President Barack Obama asked Congress for $83.4 billion Thursday for U.S. military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, pressing for special troop funding that he opposed two years ago when he was senator and George W. Bush was president.
Obama’s request, including money to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, would push the costs of the two wars to almost $1 trillion since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to the Congressional Research Service. The additional money would cover operations into the fall.
Obama is also requesting $350 million in new funding to upgrade security along the U.S.-Mexico border and to combat narcoterrorists, along with another $400 million in counterinsurgency aid to Pakistan.
“Nearly 95 percent of these funds will be used to support our men and women in uniform as they help the people of Iraq to take responsibility for their own future — and work to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Obama wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, acknowledged that Obama has been critical of Bush’s use of similar special legislation to pay for the wars. He said it was needed this time because the money will be required by summer, before Congress is likely to complete its normal appropriations process.
“This will be the last supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan,” Gibbs said.
Last June, Congress approved $66 billion in advance 2009 funding for military operations. All told, the Pentagon would receive $142 billion in war funding for the budget year ending on Sept. 30.
The request is likely to win easy approval from the Democratic-controlled Congress, despite frustration among some liberals over the pace of troop withdrawals and Obama’s plans for a large residual force of up to 50,000 troops — about one-third of the force now there — who will train Iraqis, protect U.S. assets and personnel and conduct anti-terror operations.
The official request was sent early Thursday evening.
The request would fund an average force level in Iraq of 140,000 U.S. troops. It would also finance Obama’s initiative to boost troop levels in Afghanistan to more than 60,000 from the current 39,000.