By David Alexander
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House sent Congress a 2015 war-funding request on Thursday of nearly $60 billion, a drop of $20 billion from the current fiscal year after President Barack Obama decided to withdraw all but 9,800 troops from Afghanistan by Dec. 31.
Obama, in a letter to the House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, asked for $58.6 billion for the war in Afghanistan and other overseas military activity, the smallest Pentagon war-funding request in a decade.
In addition to funding the Afghanistan war, the request also seeks $500 million to support Syria’s moderate opposition, $1.5 billion to support stability in the countries bordering Syria that have been flooded with refugees and $140 million for non-operational training in Iraq.
The administration request was about $20 billion less than the current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, and $20 billion less than the $79.4 billion place-holder figure in its budget submission to Congress in February.
The request to Boehner also included $1.4 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funds for the State Department, bringing its total request to $7.3 billion. The department had asked for $5.9 billion for overseas operations in its February budget.
The Overseas Contingency Operations request on Thursday included $5 billion for a new Counterterrorism Partnership Fund and $1 billion for a European Reassurance Initiative. About $5 billion of the total would fall under the Pentagon’s budget and the remainder under the State Department.
The White House said the counterterrorism fund would be used to respond to emerging threats by “empowering and enabling our partners around the globe.”
About $2.5 billion would go to train and equip nations fighting terrorist groups that threaten the United States and its allies. The fund, for example, would cover the cost of sending U.S. commandos to train troops in other countries.
The administration proposed spending up to $140 million to provide assistance to Baghdad, including non-operational training to help Iraqi forces address shortfalls in intelligence gathering, air sovereignty, logistics, maintenance and combined arms operations.
Senator Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, welcomed the funding request, saying the $500 million to support Syrian opposition members matched language supported by members of his panel.
Representative Buck McKeon, Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said his panel would examine the request closely, especially the new counterterrorism fund, but warned: “Congress is not a rubber stamp.”
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)