Bring home the troops.
WASHINGTON - During one of Representative Stephen F. Lynch’s early visits to Afghanistan, a crush of angry protesters had to be forced out of the path of his convoy with rifle butts. When his plane approached Iraq in the weeks after the 2003 invasion, enemy mortars were still striking the runway.
The South Boston Democrat, who won his seat in a special election on Sept. 11, 2001, has traveled to the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan 21 times, more often than almost any other member of Congress.
He has often been the only Democrat in the visiting delegation. The fact-finding missions - often into savaged neighborhoods, his blood type written on his body armor in case of attack - helped make him much more supportive of the decadelong war effort in Afghanistan than his Bay State colleagues.
Not anymore. Lynch, frustrated by a lack of progress, is now breaking with the Obama administrationand calling on the president to speed up American withdrawal from Afghanistan by at least a year.
“I don’t think we are going to get there in 2014,’’ said Lynch, speaking about the administration’s timeline for withdrawal. “The pace of progress is so slow that the law of diminishing returns will apply. I don’t think there will be any added measure of benefit that is worth the sacrifice to stay an extra year.’’
In a wide-ranging interview late last month, Lynch said his evolving view was prompted by recent visits and one-to-one talks with service members. Matters were made worse by the violence sparked by the accidental burning of Korans by US service members and then the slaying of 17 Afghan civilians, reportedly by an Army sergeant.
“The recent events have been a real setback,’’ Lynch said in his Capitol Hill office, decorated with photos of some of his travels, including one with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. “We are going to have to do a reset on our expectations and try something different in terms of helping them get to where they need to be. But I don’t think it involves a massive military presence.’’
The Pentagon has already begun drawing down troops from the surge in force levels Obama ordered in 2009 - which Lynch supported - and will bring home 23,000 more by September. The White House wants to withdraw the remaining 65,000 US service members by the end of 2014 and hand over security to newly trained Afghan forces.
Lynch, considered an authority on the war by his colleagues, serves on a key national security oversight committee and cochairs a congressional task force on terrorism financing.
One of his most pressing concerns is the slow pace of preparing Afghan security forces to carry the battle on their own. While progress is being made, he doubts that US forces staying longer will make much a difference in the end.
BTW, just wanted to point out, the troops hate these "fact finding missions." Imagine being a soldier out there, and you hear that a bigwig is coming out, so everyone needs to do extra patrols, possibly meaning friends are going to die, so you can make the area "safe." Then you have an extra convoy to get the bigwig, and another in the other direction, knowing that the other side is going to want to ambush you more now since you have a bigwig with you-again, higher chance you or a buddy dies.
Even if everyone comes home safe from the whole kerfluffle, you and everyone else has a shitload of extra work and patrols, and you take time out of the actual mission-which could mean backsliding in areas that actually help the war. Oh, and when he/she gets out there, there will be "meeting the troops," events, which are mandatory time to get your picture taken with a fake smile as you shake hands with the person who's put your life at risk for their PR stunt. Then there will be one or more speeches, which means everyone standing at attention so the bigwig can thank you for your service-not that you want his thanks, you are doing your job, and not for him but for your family and friends back home, who you can't see, and today you can't even scype cause between "security concerns" making comms less available, and the time you lost from all the crap.
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