Barack Obama uses Bush funding tactics to finance wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

President Barack Obama has requested another $83.4 billion (£57 billion) from Congress to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, using a controversial special troop funding provision that he voted against as a senator.

By Philip Sherwell in New York |

Antiwar congressman and activists who played a key role in Mr Obama’s election campaign criticised him for deploying the same “off the books” funding tactic that were introduced by his predecessor George W Bush.

Mr Bush was accused of trying to mask the overall cost of the two conflicts – which now stands at virtually $1 trillion – by funding them via annual “emergency” supplements rather than through the usual budgetary 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,” said Robert Gibbs, the president’s spokesman.

The request seems certain to be approved comfortably, with support from Republicans. But some liberal Democrats expressed their frustration with the increased funding and Mr Obama’s plans for the two conflict zones.

“This funding will do two things – it will prolong our occupation of Iraq through at least the end of 2011, and it will deepen and expand our military presence in Afghanistan indefinitely,” said anti-war Rep. Lynn Woolsey. “Instead of attempting to find military solutions to the problems we face in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama must fundamentally change the mission in both countries to focus on promoting reconciliation, economic development, humanitarian aid, and regional diplomatic efforts.”

The request would fund an average force level in Iraq of 140,000 US troops, finance Mr Obama’s initiative to boost troop levels in Afghanistan to more than 60,000 from the current 39,000 and provide $2.2 billion to accelerate the Pentagon’s plans to increase the overall size of the US military, the Associated Press reported.

Mr Obama also requested $350 million in new funding to upgrade security along the US-Mexico border and to combat narcoterrorists, along with another $400 million in counterinsurgency aid to Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the top US commander in Iraq has given warning that American combat troops may be required to remain in Iraq after Mr Obama’s June 20 withdrawal deadline to deal with al Qaeda terrorists in Mosul and Baqubah. Indeed, General Ray Odierno said that troops levels in the two troubled cities might actually rise rather than fall.

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