Second District Rep. Dave Loebsack praised efforts of Iowa National Guard soldiers in preparing Afghans to assume responsibility for their nation’s security by 2014.
Back from a weekend trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Loebsack said he was impressed by efforts to make sure the Afghan army as well as national and local polices forces have the training they need ahead of the scheduled transfer of security responsibilities to the Afghans in three years.
“That’s one reason why our National Guard troops are there – in addition to military operations,” said Loebsack, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “We want to make sure Afghanistan can stand on its own two feet when it comes to its security.”
Loebsack of Mount Vernon was the senior Democrat on the trip. In Afghanistan, Loebsack met with U.S. officials and military leaders, including Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry as well as Afghan officials, including Afghan Supreme Court justices and local leaders. In addition, Loebsack met with the commanding general in charge of the NATO training mission for the Afghan National Security Forces.
“Training of Afghan national forces is taking place with that 2014 goal in mind,” he said. “Almost everyone I talked to started the conversation with that goal in mind.
“There is a lot of confidence that can be achieved,” Loebsack added. He’d like to see it happen sooner because the Afghans seem to want the U.S. out and “this can’t be an open-ended commitment, militarily.”
Noting the U.S. still has troops in Iraq, Loebsack said involvement in Libya raises concerns about overextending the military.
However, he said, Petraeus told the congressman he doesn’t expect enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya “to have any major effect on what we’re doing in Afghanistan.”
“Our troops (in Afghanistan) are doing their mission,” he said. “They have the resources they need to do their mission. That’s critical.”
Loebsack also met with Iowa service members and brought them a piece of home through care packages that included letters and cards from students at Horace Mann Elementary in Ottumwa and Lucas Elementary in Iowa City, and calling cards donated by the USO.
In addition, Loebsack visited the Kandahar Air Field to see first-hand the improvements made by the Army Reserve’s 649th Regional Support Group based in Cedar Rapids. The 649th significant improvements to housing and amenities at the base, “making a positive impact on our troops based or transitioning through the airfield,” he said.
The 649th returned from Afghanistan in August.