MOULTRIE — Sending additional troops into Afghanistan is necessary, but even more important is weeding out corruption in the country’s government, two members of Congress said Tuesday ahead of President Obama’s speech.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday morning, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) gave his impressions on the war-torn country after spending four days in the region. Chambliss spent two days in Afghanistan, where he met with Georgia National Guard members, and also visited Pakistan during the trip.

“I think the decision to send more troops was foregone,” he said. “The question is how many and what’s going to be done with them and what the benchmarks are going to be.”

Chambliss said that progress has been made, with “probably less than 50 members of Al Queda in Afghanistan at this time.” Of the terror group’s top 25 leaders, the U.S. military has taken out about 20, he said.

To create a situation in which U.S. troops can be drawn down, though, the training of Afghanistan troops and police forces will have to be expedited and government corruption tackled, Chambliss said. However, there still likely is heavy fighting in store, particularly in Helmand Province, where the majority of U.S. troop deaths have been occurring.

Chambliss described modest short-term measures of success.

“I think if you see the security situation improve — if the Afghan people have the ability to move safely around the country, which they can’t do now, that’s real progress. (But) along with progress is going to come more casualties. Unfortunately that’s part of war.”

Another key component is working with the Pakastini government, and ensuring that Al Queda and the Taliban cannot freely move into Afghanistan seeking safe haven.

“You cannot decouple the issue of stability in Pakistan and stability in Afghanistan,” Chambliss said.

Significant progress could be 12 to 18 months down the road, Chambliss said.

For U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Macon) conditions under which U.S. forces can start to come home depends on reaching the point where Afghan troops can defend their turf.

“There has to be some demonstration of Afghan capacity to take care of Al Queda on their own, not just the capacity but the willingness,” said Marshall, during a telephone interview as he arrived at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point prior to the president’s speech. “It’s probably going to be province by province, area by area. The Afghan government is weak, corrupt and immature.”

As for how the government corruption can be dealt with, “there are lots of different opinions about that,” he said. “I’m just hoping we’re going to be able to do it. That’s a tough nut.”

Marshall also said he does not know how long the process will take.

“We’re going to have to defer to people on the ground,” he said. “We (Congress) will ask the right questions, and when all is said and done we’re going to have to depend on our military and State Department to appropriately execute the mission.”

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