KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan President Hamid Karzai told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that his security forces needed to be stronger as the two discussed possible U.S. troop increases yesterday, days after the Pentagon extended the tour of 3,200 soldiers, an Afghan official said.
Karzai stressed his desire for increased training and equipment for Afghanistan's fledgling army and police forces, the Afghan official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information publicly.
Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Karzai discussed plans announced last week by the Bush administration to ask Congress for $10.6 billion for Afghanistan, a major increase aimed at rebuilding the country and strengthening government security forces still fighting the Taliban five years after the U.S.-led invasion.
About $8.6 billion would be for training and equipping Afghan police and soldiers; $2 billion would go toward reconstruction.
Pelosi led a delegation of six other congressional Democrats to Afghanistan to meet with military and government leaders after traveling to Iraq and Pakistan.
The Pentagon last week said a brigade of U.S. soldiers would stay in Afghanistan four months longer than planned - an effective troop increase of 3,200 soldiers. That announcement came only days after a visit here by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
Pelosi, meanwhile, has led a drive in Congress against President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq as part of a new security crackdown in Baghdad.
Pelosi told Karzai that Afghanistan had bipartisan support in Congress, the Afghan official said. Members of the delegation also told Karzai they hoped to see more coordination and cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Earlier yesterday, the delegation spent about an hour at the main U.S. base in Bagram, where Pelosi thanked soldiers from the 10th Mountain and 82d Airborne Divisions for their service, said Lt. Col. David Accetta, a U.S. military spokesman. She also met with Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
The seven-member delegation stopped Saturday in Pakistan, where Pelosi met with President Pervez Musharraf to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and cooperation in countering terrorism.