Local News

February 11, 2009

McHugh: More troops needed in Afghanistan

PLATTSBURGH — During his ninth trip to the war-torn Middle East, Congressman John McHugh observed that the situation in Iraq continues to improve, but the efforts in Afghanistan will take more time.

“Things are going well in Iraq, and we just saw enormously successful elections held there, and the Iraqi people are becoming more and more confident in their leaders, but there still is some work to do there,” McHugh said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

“In Afghanistan, we are going to need more troops, maybe an additional 20,000 to 30,000 more forces.”

McHugh (R-Pierrepont Manor) spent several days in Iraq and Afghanistan recently, meeting with troops and their leaders and assessing the situation.

Plans are to remove all troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, but President Barack Obama has indicated that he would like to see withdrawal complete in 16 months, which would be the middle of 2010.

McHugh said that is possible but should not be written in stone.

“The decision should be based on the conditions on the ground and not on some campaign promise,” he said.

While progress is being made in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan is more complex, McHugh said.

“In Iraq, they are used to a strong central government, but in Afghanistan it is not as clear because there is no history of a strong central government. It is much more tribal, and there is a larger population spread out over a larger geographic area.”

Al-Qaida and other dissident groups have been hiding in remote areas of Afghanistan and in areas of nearby Pakistan, making it difficult to thwart terrorism.

McHugh said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization coalition of 41 nations has been critical in helping with the fight.

“NATO has been great partners, and they have been doing an effective job.

“Canada is a terrific example. They have been taking a lot of losses to bring stability to the region, and the entire coalition remains committed.”

The drug trade in Afghanistan is also a problem, as 90 percent of the world’s heroin supply comes from the poppy fields of that country.

Steps are being taken to eradicate the drug trade as much as possible, McHugh said.

“This year’s harvest is expected to be 20 to 30 percent less than last year, so progress is being made, but it is a tough fight.”

E-mail Joe LoTemplio at:

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