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Burr back from Afghanistan

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr has just returned from a visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan and said he was optimistic that efforts against the Taliban there had turned the corner.

Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, is a member of the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, and is the ranking member on the Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Burr was part of a congressional delegation that met with General David Petraeus, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir of Pakistan and Pakistani General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of of the Army Staff of Pakistan.

Burr said he saw considerable improvement, particularly in the southern provinces of Afghanistan since he visited a year ago.

“The progress was evident as we were able to walk through village bazaars and travel across regions of the country which just last year were major Taliban strongholds,” Burr said in a statement.

“I am optimistic that we have started to turn the corner and that we will be in a  position to hand over regions of the country to Afghan control this spring.”

Burr traveled with Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Marco Rubio of Florida and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. All are Republicans.

Burr, Marshall comfortable, disclosures show

LOWER UPPER CLASS: Republican Sen. Richard Burr and his Democratic challenger, Elaine Marshall, are both financially well off, but neither would likely earn a second glance in a Senate that has been called "the millionaire's club." (N&O)

PROBATION OFFICER BUSTED: A state probation officer has been charged with trying to illegally sell more than 100 prescription painkillers during an undercover sting. (N&O)

WAR DOCUMENTS DEBATE: The leak of classified military documents, unprecedented in scale, may reveal little new information, but is sure to re-ignite debate over the war in Afghanistan and renew tensions with Pakistan. (AP)

Burr defends military vote

Democratic senatorial hopeful Cal Cunningham slammed U.S. Sen. Richard Burr for the Republican incumbent's vote on the Department of Defense spending bill.

Burr was one of 10 members to oppose the bill. In an e-mail to supporters, Cunningham suggested that Burr doesn't care about military families.

"I can't believe it. This morning Senator Richard Burr voted against funding for our troops, both at home and abroad," Cunningham wrote in the e-mail Saturday. "Tell (Burr) that voting against our military families is unacceptable."

Cunningham quoted two military spouses whose husbands now are serving in Iraq.
The $626 billion defense appropriations bill funds the military budget for fiscal year 2010. President Barack Obama signed it into law Monday.

Among a host of other projects, it includes a pay raise for troops. It doesn't include money for the surge of troops in Afghanistan that Obama recently announced. Burr said he had a problem with that.

"It didn’t fund the surge to Afghanistan, and it had about $18 billion worth of un-defense-related earmarks in it that were not paid for,” Burr said in an interview.

Burr headed to Afghanistan

Republican Sen. Richard Burr is heading to Afghanistan later this week.

News of the trip was disclosed at an economic conference Monday morning in Durham by Bob Ingram, a close friend of Burr, who introduced the senator, a Republican from Winston-Salem. No details of the trip were immediately available.

The Burr trip comes at a critical time when the administration of President Barack Obama is deciding whether to increase the U.S. troop commitment to that country to fight the Taliban.

Burr would trade seat for better economy

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr said this week he’s willing to sacrifice his seat in Congress if it would turn the economy around.

"If I was somehow magically given a chance to turn it around and not keep my seat," he said, "I would do it without hesitation."

Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, spoke in a wide-ranging interview with the Statesville Record and Landmark this week about the economy, veterans affairs, the war in Afghanistan and health reform, Barb Barrett reports. He faces re-election in 2010.

In the interview, Burr says he worries most about the economy.

He told the Statesville paper he plans to vote in favor of extending unemployment benefits, a measure being studied in the Senate that has been opposed by some Republicans. Burr wants funding for the extension to come from the stimulus bill.
Burr earlier told Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, that he thought Americans were more interested in jobs than a check.

Burr: Mistake to release memos

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr said he is disappointed that President Obama released memos from the Bush administration.

In an e-mail to Dome, the Winston-Salem Republican said that making public the memos from the Office of Legal Counsel supporting the brutal interrogation methods used by the CIA could hurt the troops and help terrorists.

"I am disappointed that the Administration chose, over the objections of some of our most respected intelligence experts, to selectively release for seemingly political purposes, highly classified OLC memos detailing the legal analysis relating to the CIA’s sensitive interrogation techniques," he said.

He also said that the torture methods outlined in a recent Senate Armed Services Committee report were "shocking," but they would not happen again.

"The unfortunate incidents outlined in the recently released Armed Services Committee report that occurred at some of our nation’s detention facilities were shocking and damaged our reputation in the global community, but measures have been taken to prevent occurrences like this from happening in the future," he said. 

Previously: Sen. Kay Hagan 'deeply concerned' by report. 

Hagan 'concerned' by torture report

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan said she is "deeply concerned" by a recent report on torture.

The Greensboro Democrat told Dome that she was troubled by a report from the Senate Armed Services Committee about the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and Afghanistan.

"I am opposed to torture and deeply concerned about the information revealed in these documents," she said in a statement. "I have two nephews serving our country on active duty and the thought of them being tortured is unfathomable to me."

Hagan added that military psychologists have said the information gleaned from suspects "may have been unreliable and unusable."

"Our country needs reliable and accurate information to protect itself; I'm concerned that the information gained using these techniques was neither," she said.

The 232-page report was drawn from more than 70 interviews and 200,000 pages of classified and unclassified documents.

Both Hagan and Sen. Richard Burr serve on the committee.

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