Shuster returns from Afghanistan with positive outlook

August 30, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH
  • U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Having just returned from Afghanistan days earlier, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster said Monday he has an "outlook that is positive" for the Middle Eastern nation, but U.S. troops will be there for another three years.

Shuster, R-Pa., told reporters in a conference call about the trip he took with Reps. Brian Baird, John Larson and Bob Inglis. The lawmakers visited Jordan, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

When asked about President Obama's proposal to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, Shuster said he has doubts that will happen. He predicted post-surge Afghanistan will follow a timetable similar to Iraq.

It will be "three years or so until we can significantly draw down our troops there," Shuster said of Afghanistan.

Still, Shuster, of Hollidaysburg, Pa., said he saw great improvements from his 2009 visit. Among them were the "thousands of people" walking in the streets of Kabul and doing business in its bazaar.


"Much of the reporting we hear on Afghanistan is negative, but I came from Afghanistan with an outlook that is positive," he said.

Shuster cautioned that Pakistan is a major part of the war. He said the country's nuclear weapons must be secured by "moderate Pakistanis" and kept away from terrorists.

"Osama bin Laden would not hesitate to use a nuclear weapon on one of our allies or us," Shuster said, noting that U.S. commanders described the flooding in Pakistan as more devastating than the earthquake in Haiti and the Asian tsunami.

The seven U.S. service members killed Monday are evidence of an uptick in attacks associated with the troop surge, much like what happened in Iraq, according to Shuster.

"We are aggressively going after the bad guys, and when you do that, they strike back," he said.

Last week's trip was Shuster's fifth to Afghanistan since 2002. He's a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

"I want to look our troops in the eye and get firsthand what the situation is on the ground," he said.

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