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Obama seeks $83 billion for Iraq, Afghan wars

President Barack Obama is seeking $83.4 billion for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, pressing for a war supplemental spending bill like the ones he repeatedly voted against when he was senator and George W. Bush was president.
/ Source: The Associated Press

President Barack Obama is seeking $83.4 billion 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 a senator and George W. Bush was president.

Obama's request, including money to send thousands more troops into Afghanistan, would push the costs of the two wars to almost $1 trillion since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks against the United States, according to the Congressional Research Service. The additional money would cover operations into the latter months of this year.

Obama also is requesting $400 million to upgrade security along the U.S.-Mexico border and to combat narcoterrorists.

Budget office spokesman Tom Gavin said the White House would send an official request to Congress Thursday afternoon. Congressional aides who had been briefed on the request revealed its overall cost in advance.

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, acknowledged that Obama had 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. The process by which this has been funded over the course of the past many years, the president has discussed and will change," Gibbs said.

He said the measure is required to pay for the new strategy in Afghanistan and the drawdown of combat troops in Iraq. The White House plans for future war expenses to be part of the annual legislation appropriating money for the Defense Department.

Obama was a harsh critic of the Iraq war as a presidential candidate, which attracted support from the Democratic Party's liberal base and helped him secure the party's nomination. He opposed two infusions of war money in 2007 after Bush used a veto to force Congress to remove a withdrawal time line from the $99 billion measure.

He supported a war funding bill last year that also included about $25 billion for domestic programs. Obama also voted for war funding in 2006, before he announced his candidacy for president.

The coming request will include $75.8 billion for the military and more than $7 billion in foreign aid. Pakistan, a key ally in the fight against al-Qaida, will receive $400 million in aid to combat insurgents.

The coming debate in Congress is likely to provide an early test of Obama's efforts to remake the Pentagon and its much-criticized weapons procurement system. He is requesting four F-22 fighter jets costing about $600 million as part of the war funding package but wants to shut the F-22 program down after that.

The special measure would include $3.6 billion for the Afghanistan National Army.

The White House wants the bill for the president's signature by Memorial Day, May 25, said a Democratic aide in the House of Representatives.

Obama announced plans in February to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq on a 19-month timetable, with the last service members out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

His new request would push the war money approved for 2009 to about $150 billion. The totals were $171 billion for 2007 and $188 billion for 2008, the year Bush increased the tempo of military operations in a generally successful effort to quell the Iraq insurgency.