The counter-insurgency effort in Afghanistan is progressing, U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy, D-Glens Falls, said Thursday after visiting Afghanistan.
He spoke with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, U.S. troops, aid workers, ambassadors and other officials during a two-day congressional delegation trip to Kabul and Kandahar, Murphy’s first to the war-torn Middle East.
“This is a trip that I’ve been talking about since the first day that I got into office,” he said. “It’s just critical to know what’s happening on the ground to get a different perspective.”
Murphy said that for the first time in eight years, U.S. military officials feel they have enough resources to fight insurgents effectively in Afghanistan.
“I feel like we’re on a path right now,” Murphy said of President Barack Obama’s strategy to ramp up troops and work against insurgents while protecting civilians.
Now troops are being more cautious about dropping bombs and must watch a house for 72 hours to make sure there are no civilians there before they bomb near it.
“The goal is to provide safety and freedom of movement,” Murphy said. “Obviously, any kind of civilian casualties are bad for that.”
Murphy is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and traveled with four other congressmen.
He returned Wednesday and held a conference call Thursday to talk about the visit.
Murphy said he was struck with the difficulty of the task before U.S. and Afghan forces to dismantle al-Qaida.
But there has been progress.
During the trip, U.S. and Afghan troops were engaged in the Marjah offensive, and Taliban deputy chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was captured in Pakistan.
U.S. forces partner with Afghan authorities to train police and civilians alike.
Murphy said U.S.-trained police forces “lead by example” in showing Afghan police what to do.
“For years, the Afghan police have been there, but they’ve never been doing policing.”
Afghans also are being trained to return to agriculture beyond the poppy trade.
“One of the great statistics that I learned there while I was traveling around is there were less than 2 million Afghans going to school in 2002. Today there are 7 million Afghans in school,” Murphy said.
Murphy said his job is to make sure U.S. troops have the resources to be successful in Afghanistan.
Troops from his district are being deployed and have been killed while he has been in office, Murphy said.
“I think that just speaks directly to why it’s so important for me to have knowledge about what’s going on.”
Murphy said he had to wear a flak jacket while moving around in Afghanistan.
“There is a real focus on security,” he said. But he wasn’t in the middle of a war zone.
“It’s not like I was in a place where some of the soldiers are and the troops are.”