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U.S. GOP Leader Would Double Planned Troop Level In Afghanistan

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to members of the media during a news briefing in Washington in July.

The Republican leader of the U.S. Senate backed President Barack Obama's plans to keep more troops in Afghanistan after 2016 but said he favored maintaining twice as many troops there.

"The bare minimum number is ... closer to 10,000, that's what you really need," as opposed to the 5,500 Obama announced last week, said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. "To continue to flirt with the idea that it's not going to continue only encourages the other side [the Taliban] and emboldens the other side."

McConnell and four other Republican members of Congress discussed their recent trip to Israel, Jordan, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

"Every place we visited, American prestige is certainly at a low ebb, and there's a great deal of concern about the Russians raising their profile," McConnell said.

Obama, in announcing he would prolong the 14-year U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan, reversed previous plans to withdraw all but a small force to guard the U.S. embassy in Kabul before leaving office in January 2017.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP