Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Buchanan: Send more troops to Afghanistan

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan visits with troops from the
82th Army Airborne Division while visiting Afghanistan. (Provided photo)

Fresh from a boots-on-the-ground visit to Afghanistan, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan wants President Barack Obama to follow his generals' recommendations and send more troops to the war-torn country.

Buchanan, however, distanced himself from former Vice President Dick Cheney, who last month said Obama was "dithering" by taking so long to decide on the next step in a war now in its eighth year.

"I don't necessarily agree with that," Buchanan, R-Sarasota, said in an interview this afternoon. Obama "is the president, and he is at a critical juncture when it comes to Afghanistan.

"On the other hand, I'd like to see it get done," Buchanan said.

Buchanan, who returned Monday from a four-day visit with five other House members, said the two-pronged challenge for Afghanistan, and for the American role there, is to establish security in Afghan cities and villages, and then build a system of long-term governance.

Progress has been made in both areas, according to Buchanan,"but there is a lot more to be done."

"The idea is to get to the point where they can function as a country," Buchanan said.

Obama, said Buchanan, has two realistic options: Withdraw from Afghanistan; or follow the example of the Iraqi "surge" and increase the American troop level to what he said in a statement is "the appropriate level to accomplish the mission." American generals have asked for as many as 40,000 additional troops.

Buchanan first visited Afghanistan in April 2007, when the war there was arguably not the Bush administration's top priority as it dealt with situation in Iraq.

"Now, all the focus is right there," Buchanan said.

The fight is important, according to Buchanan, especially as long as al-Qaida and the Taliban remain active in Afghanistan. "You can take them on there, or you can take them on here," he said.

While in country, Buchanan said he met with several military servicemen from his district, and said he was impressed with the morale of American forces.

"They were pretty focused," he said.

Buchanan said "victory" in Afghanistan will come when Afghans "provide their own security, when our kids are out of there." Hopefully, he said, that will be in one to two years.

"The sooner the better," he said.

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