The Wisconsin Democrat, who has been largely silent to date, made his remarks as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared before his panel on the White House's $83.4 billion request to fund continued military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as beefed-up spending to forge a closer partnership with Pakistan along the Afghan border.
"I frankly don't know what I am going to do on your supplemental request because I'm very concerned that it is going to wind up with us being stuck in a problem that nobody knows how to get out of," Obey said of the increased U.S. commitment to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. After nearly eight years of war, largely in Iraq, he said he feared that the United States would find itself consumed by another eight years of conflict that would "devour" President Barack Obama's ability to make progress elsewhere.
In what appeared to be a slap at the White House's persistent upbeat tone, Obey warmly praised Obama but then added that the United States can't approach "problems as if we were presidents of the Optimist Club." . . .
The administration's strategy to battle the Taliban in Afghanistan rests on Islamabad's help, but Obey said 40 years of experience in Congress and the foreign policy arena has only taught him that Pakistan is "a country of deal makers who don't keep their deals."
"I have absolutely no confidence in the ability of the existing Pakistan government to do one blessed thing," the chairman said. "And without a functioning government focused on the right issues in Pakistan, we cannot achieve our goals in that region." . . .
"Americans are funny people. It seems to me in our nature that we think there is a solution for everything," Obey said. "But we also run into some problems that at best can simply be managed but not solved."
"I am convinced that this is one of those problems that we can't solve; we can at best manage," Obey told Clinton. And to get cooperation from Pakistan's government and intelligence services, "they need to know we're not going to be stuck there backing them up forever."